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Cold Climate Air-Source Heat Pump Demonstration

Lead Proponent: Ecologix Heating Technologies Inc.
CEF Contribution: $ 4.5 M
Project Total: $ 13 M
Location: Ontario and other regions

Project Background:

image of an outdoor unit of a cold climate heat pump (CCHP) system installed in the side yard of an existing home near Ottawa, Ontario

The outdoor unit of a cold climate heat pump (CCHP) system installed in the side yard of an existing home near Ottawa, Ontario (the corresponding indoor unit is not shown)

According to conventional wisdom, heat pumps do not work in cold weather. This may have been true in the past, because they typically had to be shut down at temperatures around -8°C and below to protect themselves from damage. However, heat pumps have evolved dramatically over the last few years and those that are designed specifically for cold weather do not have this limitation.  Yet there is a lack of awareness that these new cold climate heat pumps (CCHPs) exist and confusion as to what differentiates one from the other.

Ecologix and its partner companies began development of a cold climate heat pump (CCHP) in 2008.  At that time, the only CCHPs available were in Europe, and there were no North American manufacturers selling products with published heat pump capacity and performance numbers below -8°C.  In the fall of 2009, an Ecologix CCHP prototype was constructed and put into a test home for evaluation.  The results were encouraging and Ecologix pursued further development of their CCHP over the next few years.  In 2011, Ecologix responded to a call for proposals by the CEF.  Their “Cold Climate Heat Pump Development and Demonstration” project was awarded $4.5M to complete the development of a CCHP system and install and monitor CCHP field units in various climatic regions across Canada.

Results:

Unlike conventional heat pumps, where capacity (ability to heat) drops significantly at lower temperatures, Ecologix CCHP utilizes a special refrigeration handling cycle to provide compressor cooling in low temperature applications (as low as -25°C) where the compressor is working at maximum capacity.  Moreover, since the CCHP’s compressor is located inside a home, compressor heat that is normally rejected outside can be recovered and used for domestic hot water heating.  During the summer months, recovered heat provides 100% of what is needed to meet a household’s hot water demand.  Ecologix CCHP incorporates compressor technology that enables variable speed operation, and longer and more efficient operating cycles.  The CCHP’s output is therefore matched to the heating and cooling needs of a home.

Ecologix developed three versions of the CCHP for market trials.  The air-to-air (A2A) CCHP replaces a furnace and air conditioner to provide year round heating and cooling, and provides sufficient heat for approximately 50% to 70% of a household’s annual hot water needs.  The MURB CCHP is a multi-unit residential building (MURB) version of the A2A CCHP.  It was developed for both the existing electrically-heated high-rise market and new condominium market.  A MURB CCHP can provide in-suite heating, cooling and up to 100% of the heat required to satisfy a suite’s hot water demand.  The air to water (A2W) CCHP was developed for existing homes that have in-floor heating or water-based radiators.  Over 50 of Ecologix’s CCHP units have been installed in homes and residential buildings across Ontario, and another 50 have signed agreements and will be commissioned in the coming years.

Ecologix also developed an integrated control and monitoring system that performs diagnostics and remote monitoring of its CCHP units via an internet connection.  All data and control points can be recorded minute by minute, in real time.  Troubleshooting and performance monitoring of the CCHP units can be done remotely, by Ecologix’s technical support team.  All of Ecologix’s CCHP units installed as part of the market trails will be continuously monitored for two years and over two winters.

Benefits to Canada:

The market trials underway will peak interest and educate the Canadian public on the capabilities of CCHPs, and their potential to displace fossil fuel furnaces.  As the electrical grid evolves to become less and less dependent on carbon-based sources of power, the environmental benefits of electrically powered CCHPs become more evident.  Widespread adoption of CCHPs in Canadian homes would contribute significantly to a reduction in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Should the market trials prove to be successful at the end of the monitoring period, Canada would have a technical head start in the global CCHP market.  Ecologix is one of the first to market in North America.

Next Steps:

Ecologix will continue development work on the CCHP to optimize performance.  Specifically, work is underway to incorporate an inverter-driven compressor.  The control and monitoring platform will continue to evolve as opportunities for utilizing the technology have not been fully explored; for example, comprehensive monitoring of net-zero and energy efficient homes to ensure compliance.

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