Heat pumps for geysers

How Does a Heatpump Work?

A hot water heat pump is a very efficient electrical water heater. Their popularity has however increased drastically due to the increase in the price of electricity in the recent years. A heat pump works like an air conditioning unit in reverse. It extracts heat from the ambient air surrounding it, enabling it to heat the refrigerant which is then compressed causing it to get even hotter. This is then run through a heat exchanger where this thermal energy is drawn off to heat the water and then the refrigerant is allowed to expand again, thus cooling it down and enabling it again to absorb heat from the surrounding air.
Electricity is only used to run a fan and compressor and the heat energy is provided indirectly by the sun. A hot water heat pump typically produces up to 4 times more heat energy than the electrical energy it consumes.
By connecting a Solar Solutions heat pump to your existing hot water cylinder you can divide your hot water electrical consumption by 4. Unlike solar a heat pump is not directly dependant on the sun and therefore it can operate day and night, winter and summer ensuring you the highest possible saving and piping hot water 24/7.

Key Features

Quiet operation with no solar collectors on the roof Heat pumps are design for low operating noise and can be installed anywhere around the house.
Class leading efficiency ensuring maximum saving Due to their amazing efficiency, heat pumps will save you money each year.
Can be used in conjunction with solar heaters Solar water heaters and heat pumps can be used together. We call this a hybrid system.
Environmentally friendly Heat pumps use the natural energy in the ambient air reducing the green house gas emissions associated with the use of electricity.
Safe and reliable Heat pumps have been designed by highly qualified engineers with many safety features ensuring reliable operation for many years.
Fully automated anti freeze function Heat pumps can operate in sub-zero temperatures and can defrost themselves automatically.
Beautiful finish and superior corrosion resistance Solar Solutions uses high purity metals and quality finishes on our heat pumps to ensure the product will remain good looking even after many years .
5 Year warrantee Heat pumps have a limited extended 5 year warranty and a full 1 year warranty. The system life expectancy is more than 10 years

SOLAR THERMAL vs GAS vs HEAT PUMP vs SOLAR PV WATER HEATING

The cost of electricity, stability of the national grid and the awareness to  sustainable living have forced many consumers to turn to renewable energy technology for heating water. The national building regulations also require that at least 50% of water heating be done with something other than an electrical element. But, as with many products on the market, one can find considerably contradicting claims with regards to the different technologies. Many of these claims are nothing more than marketing “blah” and have no facts behind them. At Solar Solutions we have therefore decided to try and shed some light on the main water heating technologies and the saving that
can be achieved.

A BACKGROUND TO THE TECHNOLOGIES
Instantaneous gas water heaters uses LPG to heat water instantaneously and therefore no geyser (hot water storage tank) is needed. 1kg of LPG “contains” 13.6kWh of energy and therefore can produce 11.5kWh of thermal energy if the gas heater has an average efficiency of 85%.

Solar PV water heating element uses solar electric panels (PV panels) to power an electrical heating element. An electrical element is close to 100% efficient. In other words, if it is a 1kW element it will consume 1kW of electricity to produce 1kW of thermal output. This power now comes from a PV panel. PV panels must be installed facing North and at a horizontal angle equal to the Latitude of the location and it is critical that there is no shading on the panel. Shading as little as 2% of the panel surface can result in more than 50% panel output reduction. The efficiency of the PV panels are around 17% (under lab conditions with the cell at 25°C). In real life with the sun shining
on the cell it will heat up and cause a decrease in output power of about 8% (0.4%/°C with 20°C NOCT). Panel ageing will typically result in a maximum degradation of 2.5% in the first year and up to 10% in 10 years. Next you need a MPPT to ensure optimal power transfer from the panels to the element. A very good MPPT is typically be around 95% efficient and therefore you lose another 5% of the available power.

Solar thermal water heaters use the radiation from the sun to generate heat. The size of the solar panel will determine how much energy can be collected from the sun. If we for example have a 2.4m2 solar panel connected to a geyser this might give us 60°C water at the end
of a warm sunny day but, during cooler days with less sunshine, it might only be able to heat the water to 35°C. The solar controller will then use Eskom to heat the water to 60°C. If we have a solar panel that is only half the size (1.2m2) we would only get out half the energy and an electrical element will need to do the rest. A good quality flat plate solar thermal collector has an efficiency of around 73%. The output of a solar thermal collector de-rate based on the temperature difference between the water in the collector and the ambient temperature. Working on an average temperature elta of 17.5°C (heating water from 15°C to 60°C @20°C ambient) will give  about a 10% reduction in output. Piping thermal losses on the insulated pipes connecting the solar panel to the geyser is about 10W/m.

Domestic hot water heat pumps uses a small amount of electricity to extract a lot of energy from the surrounding air. So a heat pump is also using the energy from the sun but only indirectly and so it can work day and night, winter and summer. The efficiency of a heat pump is called COP. A COP value of 4 means that the heat pump produces four times as much thermal energy as what it uses electrically – in other words a 75% saving on the water heating bill. Unfortunately the COP of a heat pump is dependent on the ambient temperature and the water temperature and so, in a practical domestic hot water system using a well designed heat pump, a realistic annual COP value is 3 – in other words a 66% saving on the water heating bill.

A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
A family of 4 that use water moderately uses about 200L of hot water per day. To heat 200L of water from 15°C to 60°C requires 10.4kWh. The standing loss of a B-rated 200L tank is 1.6kWh/day in the lab but with installation piping included it is typically around 3.6kWh/day. Therefore the total energy requirement for this family’s hot water is 14kWh/day. If they are paying R2/kWh for electricity their water heating is costing them R840/month. Assuming that water heating typically makes up 50% of the total electrical bill we are looking here at a family that spends about R1680 per month on electricity.

Let’s now look at what the different water heating technologies can do for them. An instantaneous gas water heater would save them the standing losses on the geyser. They will therefore only need 10.4kWh of thermal energy per day. With a 85% average efficiency unit they
will burn 0.9kg of gas per day. At R23/kg the monthly cost will be R624. Assuming a 10% annual electrical tariff increase as well as a 10% annual LPG price increase they will save R16278 over the next 5 years on their water heating bill.

A solar thermal water heater system typically installed on a 200L geyser consist of a 2.4m2 solar panel (flat plate or equivalent evacuated tube). From the TUV Rheinland test reports of the ITS 2.4m2 flat plate solar collector it can be seen that it will give a thermal output of around 8.7kWh for the same 5 hours of annual average usable sunlight . De-rating this for differential temperature losses and 10m of installation piping we are left with 7.3kWh/day. The monthly Eskom bill for getting this system to 60°C will therefore be R402. Assuming a 10% annual electrical tariff increase they will save R32556 over the next 5 years on their water heating bill.

A domestic hot water heat pump working at average South-African ambient temperatures will conservatively provide an annual average saving of 66% on whatever system it is connected to. The monthly Eskom bill for keeping this system at 60°C will therefore be R280. Assuming a 10% annual electrical tariff increase they will save R41609 over the next 5 years on their water bill.

Solar PV water heating element uses solar electric panels (PV panels) to power an electrical heating element. An electrical element is close to 100% efficient. In other words, if it is a 1kW element it will consume 1kW of electricity to produce 1kW of thermal output. This power now comes from a PV panel. PV panels must be installed facing North and at a horizontal angle equal to the Latitude of the locti2on and it is critical that there is no shading on the panel. Shading as little as 2% of the panel surface can result in more than 50% panel output reduction. The efficiency of the PV panels are around 17% (under lab conditions with the cell at 25°C). In real life with the sun shining
on the cell it will heat up and cause a decrease in output power of about 8% (0.4%/°C with 20°C NOCT). Panel ageing will typically result in a maximum degradation of 2.5% in the first year and up to 10% in 10 years. Next you need a MPPT to ensure optimal power transfer from the panels to the element. A very good MPPT is typically be around 95% efficient and therefore you lose another 5% of the available power.

CONCLUSIONS
An instantaneous gas water heater in our view makes sense in places where there are no electricity available. The completed installed cost of a proper unit is only a few thousand less than a flat plate with geyser and the saving from the solar system is almost double for 200L hot water usage. Gas water heating does not care about Eskom load-shedding but do keep in mind that we have had gas supply shortages and that will leave you with cold water. With storage water heaters load- shedding is normally not a problem unless the outage last for more than a day since the water can stay warm in the tank for very long and re-heating using an electrical element or heat pump takes
only a few hours. If you use 200L of 60°C water per day 9kg of LPG will last you only 10 days and so you will have to think about the gas supply and logistics. Instantaneous gas water heaters is also great backup for solar water heaters installed in locations with no electrical grid connection. The gas heater in such an installation will only cover the shortfall of the solar water heating system.

A solar thermal water heater system will provide a great return on investment but it is important that it is installed correctly. Unfortunately we are also seeing installers that are pushed for price going for undersized systems. If we for example look at the 200L system example using an ITS 2m2 flat plate collector your saving will be R26758 over 5 years. By going for the slightly bigger 2.4m2 flat plate your installation cost will increase by about R400 but your saving over 5 years will increase by R5797 to R32556. A 2.4m2 flat plate is also by no means too big for a 150L system and so a 2m2 flat plate is only really making sense for bigger systems where you require multiple panels.

A domestic hot water heat pump will provide the best saving in this example. An ITS 4.7kW heat pump installation will cost you about R5k more than an 2.4m2 flat plate installation but will result in a R9k better saving over 5 years. A solar system can provide a bigger saving than a heat pump but for that the solar system needs to be oversized and water usage patterns needs to be adjusted. Typically you need double the volume of hot water that what you would need for a normal electrical geyser or a heat pump system. In coastal areas like Cape Town however the winter irradiation is much lower than summer irradiation. This means that even if your solar system was sized for 100% of your solar usage in summer you will have only about half the thermal output you need in the winter and the electrical element would need to do the rest. Winter is also when people use the most hot water and so a heat pump would almost always be a better solution in areas like Cape
Town.

A solar PV water heating element system typically installed on a 200L geyser consist of 3 x 330W or 4 x 330W PV panels. If they are perfectly facing we should in theory be able to get a maximum of about 5 hours of 990W out of the 3 x 330W panels (annual average – winter you will have less because the sunlight hours are less and in summer you will have more which is unfortunately mismatched for when people use the most hot water). We therefore have a theoretical maximum of 4.95kWh but with panel temperature de-raying, 1st year ageing and MPPT losses the power available to the element will be around 4.2kWh/day. The element controller will use Eskom to do the rest of the work and get the tank to 60°C (SANS 151 requires water to be stored at 60°C for Legionella disease preven2on). The monthly Eskom bill for getting this system to 60°C will be R588. Assuming a 10% annual electrical tariff increase they will save R18731 over the next 5 years on their
water heating bill. For the 4 x 330W panel system the power available to the element will be around 5.6kWh/day. The monthly Eskom bill for getting this system to 60°C will be R504. Assuming a 10% annual electrical tariff increase they will save R24974 over the next 5 years on their water heating bill. The 3 x 330W panel system requires a North facing unshaded roof space of 6m2 and the 4 x 330W panel system 8m2

heat pump for geysers
Heatpumps for geaysers 1 specs
Heat pumps for geysers Specs 2

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