Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

Heat pump tech boom means UK could be persuaded to leave boilers behind

Britain could choose to drop its reliance on “obsolete” energy production by “surfing the wave” of new efficient heat pump technology, it has been suggested.

Around the world, a handful of companies are planning to roll out new, more eco-friendly heat pumps to homes.

Current heat pumps installed across the UK and elsewhere rely on F-gas refrigerants, a type of gas that is highly destructive to the environment if leaked. It has a greenhouse gas potency 2,100 times higher than CO2 over a 20-year period.

The new heat pumps rely on helium instead. They also promise higher temperatures while maintaining a high level of energy efficiency.

As a result of new upgrades being developed, Britain – which has annual heat pump sales of around 40,000 – could be persuaded to drop its “national repulsion” to the tech, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who has covered economics for the Telegraph for 30 years.

READ MORE Heat pump campaign group thinks new boiler ban is ‘unfair and unreasonable’

In Norway, a company called Olvondo Technology has already started introducing helium heat pumps into industrial facilities such as dairy, pulp and chemical plants, although the heat pumps lose efficiency at 200 degrees.

Roger Myrvang of Olvondo said: “When you compress helium it gets really hot. It’s non-toxic, non-flammable, and easy to work with. We could use hydrogen but that’s more tricky.”

Two other startups in Europe planning to provide helium pumps for households by 2024. 

A French group called Equium says it can create 80C hot water without losing any energy efficiency, enclosed within a pressure of 30 bars. 

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The company states: “There is no limit to large-scale development. It’s just a question of time, scaling, and industrialisation.”

The company uses acoustic waves which manipulate the helium gas to produce heat.

The heat is adjusted by shifting the dial on a hi-fi speaker within a closed system.

BlueHeart Energy in the Netherlands, using the same technology, says its pumps can be a direct replacement for boilers as it reaches temperatures high enough for radiators in poorly insulated homes.

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Mr Evans-Pritchard wrote: “I have no idea which technologies will prevail. Winners will have the lowest costs.

“What is clear is that we are rushing towards a world where heating and cooling will be so cheap that we stop noticing utility bills, just as electric vehicles with GaN onboard chargers will soon cut EV charging costs to a tiny fraction of what it takes to fill a car at Mohammed bin Salman’s petrol pump.

“If Britain is to surf this wave and avoid locking further into an obsolete and expensive energy system, it first needs to detoxify its national debate. Nowhere else in the developed world has there been such a revulsion against heat pumps.”

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