Gas heat pumps (both gas engine and absorption systems) are a well-proven product in the commercial building and industrial sector. Gas heat pumps could play a major role in the residential heating market in the future. The first products have already entered the residential market (8 million boilers are sold across Europe every year), and some predict a golden future for the technology – but the market is at an embryonic stage today, with the first products only just hitting the market and many more still under development.
The technology is full of potential. We see serious effort from major industry players to bring more products to market which will create serious competition for gas boilers. Sales today are only just getting going – 100s a year. Successful product launches and falling costs will be critical if sales volumes are to reach tens of thousands of units a year by 2020.
New in-depth research on gas heat pumps by Delta-ee, which analyses the current market and outlook for residential scale gas heat pumps in Europe, indicates that the best potential for gas heat pumps lies in markets such as the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy.
Four of the five biggest boiler companies in Europe have either developed their own gas heat pump, or are working with a specialist manufacturer to offer one. Of course this isn’t the only low carbon technology the heating industry is backing, but it’s in the mix – and also being backed by several major European utilities.Here are four reasons why gas heat pumps may have a strong future:
Hurdles which will need to be overcome first
- Lower energy bills: A GHP will provide lower running costs than a condensing gas boiler – improvements in efficiency over time will increase these savings. But the capital cost will have to fall substantially from current or future low volume production levels to provide a compelling customer proposition.
- Consumer and installer acceptance: Gas is familiar and trusted, particularly in gas-dominated markets like the Netherlands, UK and parts of Germany – making gas heat pumps a more straight-forward sale than some other low carbon options – as well as relatively straightforward to install compared to many other low-carbon heating options.
- Retrofitability: New GHPs poised for launch in the next years provide a relatively good fit with residential heating systems – relatively compatible with current heat distribution systems, and relatively compact in size.
- Low carbon credentials: GHP can give carbon reduction relative to a gas boiler by ~30%, and uses refrigerants with low or zero global warming potential.
Robust, reliable products working at a high efficiency and at low enough prices is a must – further investment is required for several products to reach the market, and product developers must reach desired specifications. Awareness of gas heat pumps amongst policy makers and other stakeholders is low. This will need to change to ensure the technology is integrated into incentive frameworks, standards and wider government policy. Installers will need to have confidence in the product, and be trained to install it. And existing or new supply chains and distribution networks will need to incorporate the technology or be built.
For more information on Delta-ee’s recent in depth report on gas heat pumps, please contact Dr Lindsay Sugden, Head of Heat Pump Research at Delta-ee at email@example.com.