The market for residential CO2 (R744) heat pump water heaters in South Australia is growing “rapidly,” according to Jonathen Hindry, owner of contractor Adelaide Heat Pumps in Adelaide, Australia.
Hindry attributes the growth of the market to increased awareness among homeowners about the environmental benefits of reducing energy consumption and eliminating fossil fuels, plus the fact that South Australia has a very high solar PV installation rate. This means that a “large number of our clients are trying to maximize the use of their power generated on site,” Hindry explained.
Adelaide Heat Pumps started installing R744 heat pumps around 10 years ago and are currently installing 150 – 200 CO2 heat-pump water heaters per year, staying clear of f-gas systems entirely due to the environmental impact of those refrigerants.
Hindry and his team prefer to work with a CO2 heat pump from Australian manufacturer Reclaim Energy, a system that also includes a hot water tank in four sizes. The Reclaim Energy system has been developed by Reclaim itself in collaboration with a Japanese manufacturer. The heat pump delivers 63°C (145.4°F) hot water, and the system COP is typically between four and five in the South Australian climate, according to Hindry.
The high COP is due to the way the system is set up: the water going to the heat pump is taken from the bottom of the tank, and the temperature sensor is about one-quarter of the way up the tank, Hindry explained. “This helps to keep the return temperature as low as possible to maximize the output and efficiency.”
The tank is available in 160l, 250l, 315l and 400l sizes (42 to 106gal). For each of these tanks the heat pump unit is the same, Hindry stressed. For larger, commercial installations, Reclaim Energy offers a CO2 heat pump water heater from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Reclaim Energy has also developed its own controller system for heat pumps, which allows users to “set the operation time of the system to tie in with solar PV production and also time-of-use power agreements,” Hindry explained. “They have just released version 1.1 which now allows for an external signal from a solar PV inverter or home automation.”
When queried about the potential for using CO2 heat pumps for space heating, Hindry said that most homes in Australia use air conditioning in the summer and gas heating in winter. Water-based hydronic heating systems are growing in popularity in Australia but are still only a small part of the market, he added.
The majority of Hindry’s customers are residential homeowners. “The commercial sector has been a more difficult sell due to the historically low gas prices and the lack of education around quality heat pumps,” he said.
Another barrier, in the beginning at least, was cost. “Initially CO2 heat pumps were a fringe product due to the higher cost compared to other heat pumps utilizing older style refrigerants and also alternative hot water systems.”
However, “we are seeing a shift happen where both residential and commercial clients are more educated about the technology,” Hindry noted. This shift means that his company has now also installed a few solutions for bakeries, apartment blocks and community centers.
The most important factor for many of Hindry’s customers when deciding on a new water heating system is the energy efficiency and running cost of the system. The CO2 heat pump water heater from Reclaim Energy is the “perfect fit” for this, Hindry said, because it “offers top-down heating and single-pass heating, [so] it is very quick to heat up the tank, making it easy to fit into their solar production window.”
“We are seeing a shift happen where both residential and commercial clients are more educated about the [CO2 heat pump] technology”Jonathen Hindry
One aspect helping to increase the popularity of heat pumps in Australia is what’s called STCs, or small-scale technology certificates. The STCs help reduce the price of energy-efficient appliances and are awarded on the basis of the amount of electricity displaced by a system, Hindry explained.
An example would be a Reclaim Energy CO2 heat-pump water heater with a 315l (83.2gal) tank. This system has 28 STCs assigned to it, and the STCs trade for around AU$35 to AU$38 (US$25.24 to US$27.40) each. “To make it easier for our clients, we offer the rebate as an upfront discount and trade the certificates after the installation,” Hindry explained.
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