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Delta-EE takeaways from ISH Digital – Part 1. Decarbonisation, and product innovations

ISH Digital 2021 / ISH Technology and Energy Forum Source: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Petra Weizel

In the heating industry – and for the Delta-EE Heat research team! - ISH is an event not to be missed. It’s a great place to hear about the latest heating product launches and innovations in one of Europe’s biggest heating markets, and from some of its biggest brands. This year’s ISH quite different from usual, with everything happening online via the new “ISH Digital” platform. While it felt a bit sad not to be able to catch up with contacts in person over a coffee or beer, for us it was still a very worthwhile event to attend.

There were several stand-out themes for us at the event: from product innovations, to new digital tools, to support for installers. Here are the first two of our major takeaways from the event. We’ll be publishing more in the coming weeks. 

Takeaway 1: There is a real momentum in the heating industry around the decarbonisation of heat agenda – but little promotion of innovative finance or ‘Heat as a service’ offerings, to get beyond the able to pay.

All the big heating players were competing to be seen as the cleanest & greenest: from Bosch’s “For the future of the blue planet” slogan to “Transform with Daikin” and Viessmann’s “Co-create climate for life”. We know from Delta-EE’s own customer research that environmental concerns are higher than ever among the German public, with almost 50% of householders we surveyed recently saying that environmental sustainability is more important to them now, than before the coronavirus pandemic[1]. And it is looking increasingly likely that the German Green Party will have significantly more power in the Bundestag after September. So it makes sense that heating industry players are falling over themselves to be seen as part of the climate change solution, rather than part of the problem. It looks like it’s finally paying to be “green”!

The German heating market is also booming, especially in retrofit. Generous subsidies (and now a carbon tax on fossil heating fuels) are encouraging households to renovate their heating systems to something “greener”. 2020 saw over 300,000 applications for a subsidised installation of a new heating system, and sales of heat pumps reached a record high of 120,000 units for heating alone. The generous subsidies appear to be enough – for now – to keep much of the industry busy. But reaching a larger number of homes will require getting beyond the affluent ‘able to pay’ sector. Viessmann shared some impressive positive results of +450% growth from their heat as a service offering (Viessmann Wärme). It would be nice to see other heating industry brands following their lead – or they may find the opportunity is taken by new entrant players like Econic (who you can hear more about in our recent Talking New Energy Podcast). 

Takeaway 2: Product innovations are focussing on efficient retrofit, multi-family homes, cooling and aesthetics.

As in other markets, tackling CO2 emissions from existing German homes poses a much greater challenge than new ones. There were numerous product innovations being showcased across the fair, but some highlights for us were:

  • More products and systems for MFHs: provided by large condensing boilers, higher capacity heat pumps or heat pump cascades, and ‘ambient loop’ systems where smaller ‘booster’ heat pumps in each apartment provide individual heating and hot water, using a shared low-temperature water loop as the heat source. Daikin were the latest company to reveal an ambient loop solution, although other players also have similar products available.
  • High flow temperature heat pumps – good for achieving acceptable comfort (and acceptable running costs!) in retrofit. Several new units were on show claiming max. flow temperatures of up to 75 deg C. These often use mid-GWP and low-GWP refrigerants: R290 (propane) for Viessmann, Vaillant and Chinese entrant Phnix; R32 from Daikin (unsurprisingly!); R454C from Stiebel Eltron.  There were also some strong claims on efficiency, with several units being advertised with a SCOP (seasonal performance) of 5.1 ~ even (in Bosch’s case) when using the older R410a refrigerant.
  • More mention of and promotion of “hybrid” systems, of all kinds - including Bosch’s new physically integrated “gas hybrid heat pump” + hot water storage, designed for the German retrofit market (and with a physical footprint to match!).
  • There is ongoing development in micro-CHP offerings. Viessmann showcased their 4th generation of best-selling fuel cell micro-CHP the Vitovalor, which will be able to run on up to 20% hydrogen blend; SOLIDpower revealed further details of their new 5kW fuel cell product for commercial applications; and new entrant Enviro Power Inc, from the USA, showcased their steam turbine ‘Smart Watt Boiler’.
  • Cooling – both passive cooling (combining a hydronic heat pump with under floor distribution system) and active cooling (using air/air heat pumps or ‘multi-function units’ like the Daikin hybrid multi) were being promoted, to increase residents’ comfort levels.
  • Also on the heat pump side, there was ongoing emphasis on improving aesthetics (which some would say has been much needed!) and reducing noise – common themes in product development over the last 2-3years. There is also increasing focus on the flexibility of installation – for example, Daikin redesigning their monobloc product to make sure units are low enough to fit underneath a window - something players like Stiebel Eltron did a while ago.

What were you impressed by at ISH? Let us know if you have any questions, or there were any exciting innovations you think we’ve missed. And keep an eye open for our next blogs on ISH and the German heating market.


[1] Delta-EE customer research, October 2020. Contact us for more information.



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Tuesday, 28 September 2021

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