Automatic Heating, an Australian provider of heating and cooling systems to the commercial HVAC market, expects continued adoption of CO2 (R744) heat pumps in the local market, having already installed more than 100 units from Japanese manufacturer ITOMIC into various commercial and residential (apartment building) projects in Australia with resulting COPs of up to 4.2.
This was according to an interview with Terry Plaisted, Sales Manager at Automatic Heating, during the ARBS 2022 trade show, which took place from August 16 to 18 in Melbourne, Australia.
A highlight at Automatic Heating’s booth this year was the ITOMIC Revere 80kW (23TR) commercial air-to-water CO2 heat pump. The Revere unit can produce hot water up to 90°C (194°F) for both space and water heating purposes. This complements the apartment-building heat range of 15kW (4.3TR) and 35kW (10TR) heat pumps.
Automatic Heating is a family-owned business that has been operating since 1926. It has been in partnership with ITOMIC for over five years to bring that manufacturer’s product range to the Australian market, with interest growing in New Zealand as well, according to Plaisted.
“ITOMIC has been a terrific supplier for our requirement to provide outcomes for customers who want to capture heating and hot water by utilizing natural refrigerants,” said Plaisted. “With the phase down and reduction of HFC products, we see the ITOMIC heat pumps to have a special place in the industry and the applications in which we’re involved.”
Educating the market
“The customer benefits from a power reduction, the use of environmentally friendly natural refrigerants, a world-recognized product and componentry and terrific customer support – both from Automatic Heating and ITOMIC in Japan,” said Plaisted. These units also interface seamlessly with Building Management Systems (BMS).
According to Plaisted, there has been an ongoing education process in the local market to drive the uptake of these CO2 heat pumps in both new and retrofit projects. One of the big drivers has been efficiency. By providing heating and hot water in a combined system, the efficiencies of the CO2 heat pump are optimized – even in very cold climates (below -5°C/23°F), where HFC-charged heat pumps often become inefficient, Plaisted explained.
In Melbourne, a project was set to install direct electric elements in a building for 95 apartments. The power requirement would have been close to 2,000amps for the building. However, Automatic Heating redesigned the building with a central hot water system using CO2 heat pumps. This drastically reduced the power requirement to only 50amps for the two units installed. Not only was the running cost of these units lower, but the installation cost was too, said Plaisted.
An additional benefit is the compact size of the heat pump, particularly in the smaller 15kW (4.3TR) unit. This is a suitable choice to replace boilers with restricted machine room access. Even the larger 80kW y-frame heat pump can be easily disassembled and moved into a small room thanks to its modular design. It also takes up a smaller footprint than the boilers it replaces.
Growing installation base
One of the most popular applications for the CO2 heat pump is in apartment buildings and other residential developments. Just in one area, there are various ITOMIC heat pumps serving multiple buildings and over 400 apartments, delivering hydronic heating and domestic hot water. This has resulted in reduced power consumption and using less space on the roof and machine rooms for equipment, according to Plaisted. A separate installation is providing heating and hot water to an Australian university.
Another popular use is providing hot water for people who need to shower at the office after cycling to work, for instance. The latest use is for preheating the water supply for large boilers where there is a large demand for hot water in the system.
According to Plaisted, Automatic Heating is seeing good market activity and uptake of the CO2 heat pumps. “It’s easier to sell CO2 heat pumps now,” said Plaisted. This is thanks to the ongoing education of end users plus a growing number of successful installations that can be visited to see the units in operation.
Government incentives also have a role to play in the growing uptake of efficient CO2 units that are certified to Australian standards. For instance, the state of Victoria is focusing on reducing the demand for natural gas and is particularly interested in continuing the electrification process by incentivizing the use of heat pumps for office buildings, council buildings and aquatic centers aiming to achieve net zero goals by 2030/2035.
“With our past experience, we can see room for growth and room for supporting our customers to pave their way to net zero,” said Plaisted.
Beyond growing the market in Australia and New Zealand, Automatic Heating’s future plans include focusing on expanding and strengthening its partnerships to also support ongoing local service and maintenance of these units.
Want to find out more, or have something to say about this story? Join the ATMO Connect network to meet and engage with like-minded stakeholders in the clean cooling and natural refrigerant arena.