CEDA targets decarbonization and electrification strategies for the built environment. A potential high performance measure to decarbonize is to include hydronic heat pumps in your design. Hydronic heating systems have emerged as a leading technology in the decarbonization of building applications while maintaining reliability and providing additional advantages in comparison to a traditional gas heating system.
Introduction to hydronic heat pumps
There are three types of heat pumps: air source, which is the most common; water source; and geothermal. Air-source heat pumps come in two forms, air-to-air or air-to-water (hydronic) pumps.
Hydronic heat pumps work by bringing in thermal energy from outside air and using it to heat water. Tubing in the floor or baseboards carries the heated water through a building and releases the heat in rooms where it is needed. To supply hot water for use, it is carried through pipes. To cool the building, heat is drawn from inside of the building, cooled down and then dispersed back through the building.
Typically, the biggest barrier that turns people away from hydronic heat pumps is their upfront cost, which is higher than traditional HVAC systems. Many programs offer incentives for clients switching to this kind of heat pump to offset the cost. The hydronic heat pump is also more efficient, so it can cut costs from an electric bill, offering you more savings in the long run.
Currently, the most common type of heating system is a forced air distribution system. This type of system uses a furnace with a fan to blow the heated air around the building using ducts. To heat the air, furnaces use natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity as a fuel source. Gas appliances can give off air pollutants while burning these fuel sources. Unlike furnaces, hydronic heat pumps move heat rather than creating it by burning harmful fuel sources.
Highly flexible design
Hydronic heat pumps allow for zoning within a building because of their highly flexible design. Zoning is beneficial because temperature can be controlled more precisely and efficiently.
According to ECI, hydronic heat pumps offer an advantage over air-to-air heat pump systems because they have 16 times more carrying capacity.
Sample building diagram of an air-to-water heat pump in heating mode
Sample building diagram of a water-to-water heat pump in heating mode
What are the benefits?
- The primary focus of this measure is decarbonization of the building site by utilizing an efficient and electric solution for heating the hot water loop in the building.
- Equipment can be used for space heating, heat recovery, simultaneous heating and cooling and process loads.
- Energy efficiency with higher performance and lower energy use.
- Expandable designs available for incremental size capacity, redundancy, and future load requirements.
- Flexibility in capacity for small and large commercial applications.
- Full commissioning and FDD ensure the system are operating to optimize maximum efficiency and to ensure consistent performance during equipment lifecycle.
- May reduce installation and maintenance cost compared to a conventional chiller plant.
- May reduce mechanical room requirements and installation area required for mechanical equipment.
What are the challenges or constraints?
- Equipment efficiency may be derated for projects with required high hot water temperatures (typically greater than 120˚F).
- Equipment performance optimization may require additional design, commissioning, and controls.
- Initial cost impact, especially for water-to-water
- Limited operating conditions at lower ambient or water temperatures.
What are the qualifications for CEDA inducements?
- Air-to-water or water-to-water heat pump systems for heating, heat recovery or simultaneous heating and cooling applications.
- The system must be designed with documented criteria to define optimum operating conditions based on project-specific conditions.
- The system must be fully commissioned and operating at optimized design conditions.
- Fault Detection Diagnostics (FDD) to ensure ongoing optimized performance are strongly recommended but not required.