Rising gas prices driving heat pump awareness in Australia

By Devin Yoshimoto, May 28, 2018, 16:20 2 minute reading

Rising gas prices, increasing environmental awareness and the HFC phasedown are driving interest in natural refrigerant-based heat pumps in Australia's commercial and industrial sectors.

CO2 heat pumps on display at ARBS 2018.

Rising gas prices, increasing environmental awareness and the HFC phasedown are driving interest in natural refrigerant-based heat pumps for hot water heating solutions in Australia's commercial and industrial sectors.

"If I look back about six to twelve months ago, the amount of inquiries we were getting would probably be about one a month," said Peter O'Neill, sales and marketing manager for Mayekawa Australia, at the ARBS exhibition in Sydney earlier this month.

Mayekawa supplies the UNIMO CO2-based heat pump in Australia.

"Over the past three to four months, we're getting inquiries just about every week, which tells me there's more interest in the UNIMO. I think it is mainly due to the price of gas and the price of electricity. So, I think we are at the first step of a huge market for CO2 hot water heat pumps."

In addition, performance advantages for CO2-based heat pumps in extreme climate conditions are an added benefit for businesses looking to replace inefficient gas boilers or HFC-based heat pumps in certain environments.

Efficiency advantages of CO2

During a heat pump workshop at the preceding ATMOsphere Australia conference, Trent Miller from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia detailed the efficiency advantages of MHIAA's Q-ton CO2 heat pump as demonstrated at an installation in the tropical climate of Cairns, Australia.

"We've got five Q-tons providing 9,000 litres of [hot water] storage in Cairns," said Miller.

"Conventionally, it was done with liquid petroleum (LP) gas and instantaneous hot water heaters. We've replaced that with five Q-tons and 9,000 litres of hot water and saved the application $60,000 a year."

"We're very proud of one of our first installations in the tropics. It's really proving how effective CO2 is in high-temperature applications."

Overall, suppliers are seeing an opportunity to communicate the overall lifecycle cost benefit of replacing older boiler systems with CO2-based heat pumps.

"There may be a bit more capital cost upfront if you compare kilowatt to kilowatt with a traditional heat pump," said Lachlan Shemilt, business development manager at Melbourne-based Automatic Heating, a solutions provider for water-based heating and cooling to the commercial HVAC market in Australia.

Automatic Heating was displaying the Japanese-made Itomic CO2 heat pump at its booth, marking Itomic’s Australia debut.

"But we've done a lot of return on investment calculations, especially opposed to LP gas solutions, and we've got an operating cost of about 75% less than an LP gas system, so it's huge."

"It's a no-brainer. If we can get a job – domestic hot water production – and we can run storage, we can run the heat pump on off-peak power, and we can store the water at higher temperatures because of the CO2, then it's an easy sell to the end user."

Mayekawa sees growing interest in NatRef heat pumps in Australia.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia, discusses CO2 heat pumps at ATMO Australia 2018.

Automatic Heating exhibits CO2 heat pumps at ARBS 2018.

By Devin Yoshimoto

May 28, 2018, 16:20

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