New twist on time-tested technology: Heat Pumps.
To be realistic, it’s hard to imagine every home, apartment building or condominium complex in the world converting to solar energy for heat, hot water and electricity (or any other onsite renewable energy for that matter). Further, given the low proportion of renewables currently on the world’s power grids, it’s hard to see every building on the planet powered by renewables for quite some time.
It’s equally unrealistic to think that all the world’s energy-inefficient buildings could be simply torn down and replaced with greener, more efficient ones. Relatively few will be remodeled to meet those goals either.
But what will happen with nearly every building beginning now and over the next 20 - 30 years is that energy systems in those buildings - heat, cooling, lighting, appliances - will wear out and need replacement. Your refrigerator may die as you read this, or it might in 10 years, but almost surely won’t be around in 20 or 30 years. Ditto for your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump.
When these systems do fail they’ll probably be replaced with more efficient ones. Even without buying the most efficient model you can find, a new replacement is likely more energy efficient than the one you have now.
The inevitable fact that energy systems will fail over time, along with the continued demand for products for new construction; this gives systems manufacturers have a steady stream of business to look ahead to. (Though recessions can slow things down a bit .)
Further, given the current quest for greenness and energy efficiency, new technologies, new ideas, even new companies building on those new ideas will be established to meet that demand.
One of those companies with a new idea is Hallowell International. It has developed what it says is the first energy-efficient, eco-friendly and affordable product that heats and cools homes and commercial buildings: the All Climate Heat Pump (ACHP).
Heat pumps, which provide both heat and air conditioning for homes, were developed originally as a less-costly-to-operate alternative to electric furnaces operating in conjunction with a central air conditioning system.
Heat pumps began their history with a somewhat poor reputation. The earliest models provided ample cool air (they are, at their heart, really just air conditioners) but when winter rolled around the warm air that flowed from them didn’t provide a feeling of warmth. Many complained and would often switch on, manually, the back-up heating which is typically electric resistance heating, not unlike a portable electric space heater. The back up heat is expensive to operate, like an electric furnace.
Certainly in the past couple of decades heat pumps have improved and now provide ample heat for some climates, yet still have incorporated in them electric resistance (or perhaps gas) back up heat because it’s still needed. At certain temperatures, say 30 degrees F and below, heat pumps don’t provide enough warm air to heat a home.
Hallowell, based in Bangor, Maine (not known for its warm winters) thinks it has a better idea. The company has added a second compressor in its ACHP to boost the performance of the first and primary compressor in cold temperatures. The company calls the system Opti-Cycle (tm). The company says their system does not require back-up electric heat for operation in below freezing temperatures. It will provide heat with Opti-Cycle as low as minus 30 F, according to the company website.
The company also says that air flowing from registers is as high as 120 degrees: warm enough to feel warm.
On the cooling side, Hallowell uses a compressor which has the ability to run at half or full capacity, giving it multi-staged cooling for more efficiency. The thermostat determines how far the indoor temperature is away from the set-point and then it automatically engages only the most efficient mode needed to maintain the desired temperature.
The ACHP heat pumps are Energy Star rated and have efficiency ratings of 13.6 -14 SEER, typical of new, conventional heat pump and air conditioning systems now sold in the US. However the ACHP heat pumps are less costly to operate in subfreezing temperatures than conventional systems, according to the company. Hallowell is also a member of the US Green Building Council.
Hallowell International http://www.gotohallowell.com
US Green Building Council http://www.usgbc.org