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What you need to know before selecting a heat pump

Just a few years ago, chillers totally dominated the market, while the number of heat pumps sold and installed was low. Today, EU demands, new technology and focus on decreasing fossil fuel dependency has made the market for heat pumps explode. The need for getting rid of gas boilers has opened up the field for heat pumps, which can generate not only heating and chilling for spaces, but also domestic hot water.

However, selecting, dimensioning and installing a heat pump is more challenging than installing a standard chiller. You need to evaluate many more parameters, possible threats and features, depending on your needs in the project. Heat pumps can cover a much wider application than chillers, and provide water with temperatures in a broader range, so you need to find the right heat pump for you.

Selecting a chiller is a matter of balancing capacity, dimensions, efficiency and price. With heat pumps, you also have to consider a number of other parameters which complicate finding the right choice for you. For example, will it be used only for heating, or should it be reversible? If it is reversible, should it be optimized for heating or for cooling? And do you need it only for space heating, or do you need it to produce domestic hot water at high temperatures?

Heat pumps for comfort, residential and commercial applications can produce leaving water with temperatures ranging from 35 °C to 80 °C. This puts heat pumps into competition with gas boilers, and it has become increasingly common to request “plug and play” gas boiler-comparable functionality in heat pumps. Heat pumps, however, seldom produce hot water quite as quickly as old-school gas boilers, which is another factor you must take into consideration.

Chillers, most of the time, produce leaving water with temperatures between 5 °C and 20 °C. Also, chillers only compete with other chillers. Another difference is the optimal outside air temperature (OAT) in which the units work. In Europe, chillers work in OAT from 15 °C to 45 °C, while heat pumps need to provide heating from -20 °C, or lower, up to 20 °C of OAT.

Another factor to take into consideration is defrost. The need for defrosting in air-based heat pumps can negatively impact the quality of the produced water. Selecting the right heat pump or adding external components which help to increase the thermal inertia of the system can be crucial.

In conclusion, the world of heat pumps is much larger, and more challenging than the world of chillers. But where there are risk there could be also opportunity and heat pump represent one of the most effective tool we have to pursue the abatement of the European CO2 emissions. We need to be prepared for any issues, requests and possible threats that we are likely to face in the near future.

Swegon is ready to aid you in mastering this field with dedicated learning paths, webinars and tools to help with calculating energy efficiency and finding the right heat pump for you while also providing useful insights and valuable information to installers and final clients. We are also developing new heat pumps, designed and tested to optimize all possible different applications covering any working condition.