Oxford University Study Reveals Heat Pump Efficiency in Cold Weather
- Sep 12, 2023 11:19 am GMT
A new study by researchers at Oxford University and the Regulatory Assistance Project thinktank shows that heat pumps outperform fossil fuel systems in cold climates, confounding criticisms that heat pumps are inadequate in subzero conditions.
Even at temperatures approaching -30°C (-22°F), heat pumps are significantly superior in performance to oil and gas heating systems, according to the research from Oxford University. This new study was released as the market for heat pumps rises in many countries as people seek cheaper energy as fossil fuel prices hike. The reduced greenhouse gas emissions from these units are beneficial to both users and governments.
The research, published in the specialist energy research journal Joule, used data from field studies in Europe, North America and Asia. This study showed that at temperatures below zero, heat pumps were between two and three times more efficient than conventional oil and gas heating systems.
Many residential and commercial users in the USA and across Europe would benefit from heat pumps replacing conventional heating sources. But uptake is variable: the UK is lagging far behind leaders like France or Scandinavia, which have installed ten times as many heat pumps as Britain, where there were widely-read media articles disparaging their performance in cold weather.
The report uses examples of studies conducted in extremely cold climates, with temperatures from −10°C (14°F) and approaching −30°C (-22°F). In these temperature ranges, specially engineered “cold-climate heat pumps” are typically deployed. Mitsubishi and Toshiba models tested in Finland at very low temperatures performed well. In the USA testing of cold-climate heat pumps took place in Minnesota and Alaska. The coefficient of performance (COP), the ratio of the useful heat outputted to energy consumed, delivered in these studies was between 1 and 2 at temperatures of −12°C (10.4°F), which is considered to be good performance.
The study, and others, suggest that ordinary air-to-water heat pumps would reliably provide heating across a large belt of moderate-weather USA and most of Europe. The lower running costs and better reliability (fewer moving parts than a boiler), would benefit consumers in the longer term.
Unfortunately, while heat pump uptake increased by 11 per cent in 2022, a combination of public skepticism and insufficient government support means that deployment rates in many countries are lagging behind the levels needed to decarbonize heating and move rapidly towards net zero emission targets.
Authors of the study propose a renewed effort from industry and policymakers to promote the efficiency and effectiveness of heat pumps even in cold weather, warning that the amount of heat supplied by heat pumps in the EU will need to be tripled if the sector is to meet its 2030 climate and energy targets.
"This research should instill confidence in policymakers to provide the right frameworks to roll out heat pumps as rapidly as possible," said Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European Programs at RAP. "The UK has set ambitious targets for heat pump roll-out. What is missing is the policy framework to deliver on this ambition. This includes reforming taxes and levies as well as setting clear phase-out dates for fossil fuel heating."
It is clear that incentives need to be created by governments and delivered to consumers to ensure that there is a significant take-up of these heating systems. Currently they are about three times as expensive as conventional boilers, so many consumers simply cannot afford to have them installed, even if running costs are lower. The positive implications of the report show that fears that heat pumps would cease functioning in cold weather are greatly exaggerated.
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.