A smart heat pump that knows how to maximize solar energy and store heat when the sun is not shining
A growing number of households around the world are looking to reduce their gas consumption, but challenges remain, ranging from higher upfront payments for household appliances to matching electricity use with renewable energy production.
This heat pump system, from Harvest Thermal, is designed to intelligently pull clean energy through a solar heating system when the sun is brightest so that heating, cooling and hot water are provided with minimum carbon emissions.
With just full-time staff and consultants, the California-based company aims to install 100 systems locally by the middle of next year, before turning to Australia.
By operating both systems from a single electric heat pump and aligning use with when renewables are most readily available, the system not only reduces emissions by around 90% compared to traditional gas systems, but 60% compared to other electric heat pumps. methods.
The company was one of six to be chosen for EnergyLab’s Global Startup Accelerator Program this year, with CEO and co-founder of the company, Jane Melia, telling The fifth state the transition from gas fireplaces to fully electric fireplaces was only just beginning to intensify.
“By 2050, when we have to be carbon neutral, we won’t be able to do that if we keep gas in our homes,” Melia said.
However, she stresses that the way in which we switch from gas to electricity is important and must take into account the major challenges facing network operators.
“[In many parts of the world now] grid operators get a lot of solar power on the grid in the middle of the day, ”Ms. Melia explained.
“But if we all start using electric utilities in the morning and evening, that is, when we need heat, we are not using that solar electricity – we are using the most electricity. dirty and the most expensive on the network. “
“And that makes it much harder for network operators to fulfill their mandate for clean, affordable and reliable electricity because we just don’t buy it, we buy it at the wrong time of day.”
Use the hot water storage as a thermal battery
Harvest Thermal’s system works by heating and storing hot water during the day, which can be used for home heating and other needs when demand is highest, at night and in the morning. The storage tank then acts like a battery.
“The trick is really how you actually manage a ‘stupid’ hot water tank as a thermal battery. And that’s where a lot of the hard work and know-how of our team came into play, ”says Melia.
Water is stored as needed, with the “brain” behind the system, the Harvest Pod, determining not only when to run the heat pump to access the cheapest and greenest electricity available, but also how much hot water to create based on usage patterns.
“Because of our ability to store water and then know with a high level of precision what’s inside the tank and only load it as much as you need and when you need it. need it. This is really our innovation and it is what allows us to use a single tank to provide heating and hot water.
Ms Melia adds that by decoupling home heating delivery from when energy is generated, the team is able to resize the heat pump to meet the energy load on the coldest day of the world. year, rather than the coldest hour, as with a typical system.
“Thus, the storage of hot water, acting as a thermal battery, is a real buffer. You can charge it before the coldest time of the day, which will be in the morning in winter. This load is going to be three times, maybe four times the average, ”Ms. Melia said.
“If you can charge the tank in advance with this heat pump, which we do, you can deliver a lot of heat to the house without this heat pump having to be oversized. “
According to Ms Melia, a number of companies are using hot water storage as a thermal battery, but most have failed to meet the challenge of leading this for home heating on a scale larger than a small one as well. apartment, which is one of its separate business settings.
The product is in a pilot phase, with systems already installed in six homes in California and expected to be deployed in 30 more starting next year.
With nine full-time staff and consultants, Ms Melia said everyone is on deck to meet the self-imposed goal of having 100 systems installed by the middle of next year.
She added that things were moving fast in California to get more and more properties out of gas, and she had observed equally rapid developments occurring downwards, most noticeably in ACT and Victoria.
Melia has worked in Australia before and has created a network of contacts here that she hopes will help her tap the market here.
“It’s going to be an exciting year. Get the first 100 [systems installed] would mean we’ve proven the market exists, proven system performance, proven our training capabilities for builders, and proven our ability to execute as a business, ”said Melia.