Solar heat pump achieves energy savings of up to 30%

The project managers at the Institute for Solar Technology SPF, Igor Mojic and Michael Haller (Photo: HSR University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil)
The project managers at the Institute for Solar Technology SPF, Igor Mojic and Michael Haller (Photo: HSR University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil)

As part of a research project, the Swiss Institute for Solar Technology SPF in Rapperswil has developed a new solar heat pump heating system that achieves energy savings of up to 30%. At the same time, the system ensures that almost no errors can occur during installation.

The idea of combining solar thermal and heat pumps is not new, but only niche applications currently exist on the market. Combining these technologies actually makes a lot of sense, but high investment costs and potential errors during installation have prevented a market breakthrough up till now.

Last week, the SPF introduced a prototype during a workshop. The system consists of a heat pump, a heat storage system and a solar absorber. In addition to using efficient technologies such as the latest generation of compressors, a highly efficient absorber coating for solar collectors and vacuum insulation for the storage tank, SPF also paid particular attention to the overall system.

Systemic approach for more efficiency

The project managers at the Institute for Solar Technology SPF, Igor Mojic and Michael Haller (Photo: HSR University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil)

Every development step was evaluated regarding the benefits of the corresponding component, but also regarding the effect the component would have on the efficiency of the overall system. Development ideas with only limited benefit compared to the cost were sorted out at an early stage.

The new system offers several advantages, including the compact, space-saving layout of its components as well as its high degree of prefabrication. Systems currently available on the market consist of one or two heat storage tanks in the basement, a heat pump that sits next to them and a solar station with a heating circuit mounted on the wall. The installation technician has to connect these components, install temperature sensors and connect them to the control unit. It is easy to make mistakes during this installation process.

The technician will then need to fix these errors later. In a worst-case scenario, the equipment might run very inefficiently for a long time and incur high energy costs. By implementing a compact, coordinated component layout in combination with a high degree of prefabrication, the new system can virtually eliminate these problems. Even insulating individual pipes or fittings on-site is unnecessary. This significantly reduces the amount of work needed to install the system, thereby also reducing costs.

Combining solar thermal with a heat pump saves a lot of energy

During the past few weeks, SPF put the new solar heat pump heating system into operation and tested it using a test stand that it developed itself The performance and energy efficiency of the prototype were tested under realistic conditions. The results of these tests show that energy savings between 26% and 30% can be achieved using the solar heat pump system. A follow-up project will now prepare the heating system for mass production. The University of Applied Sciences in Rapperswil is currently looking for investors and industrial partners to continue to develop this highly efficient heating system to production maturity.

SPF was in charge of coordinating the project, which included five research partners and four industrial partners from six countries. A total of four prototype heating systems were developed that provide space heating and hot water for single-family homes using solar energy and heat pumps.

Jan Gesthuizen

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