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Silence of the heat pumps: could noise regulations cannibalise the HP industry?

Silence of the heat pumpsThe stillness of the wintery night, a time of quiet, a time of chilled serenity, a time where air-water heat pumps must work hardest. This whine of exertion reflects an ongoing if currently minor concern for the heat pump industry in Europe. That is the noise emissions from their products and the potential for these systems to breach noise limits, especially in residential areas. The Heat Pump Research Service recently looked at the fragmented, and often not totally understood impact of noise regulations on a/w heat pump industry stakeholders. We set about determining the impact of these noise regulations on the eligibility for a/w heat pump products to be installed in key residential European heating markets.

Our key question: what is the potential future impact of noise regulations on heat pump installability? Could this be a silent time-bomb for manufacturers? Will noise regulations make a meal out of many of the noisier a/w heat pump products currently available, and subsequently their manufacturers?

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

As heat pumps increasingly penetrate into European heating markets, some manufacturers have become concerned about the potential restrictions placed on their products by existing noise regulations. With little in the way of a formalised understanding amongst many heat pump manufacturers regarding the impact of noise regulations on heat pump installations across Europe, we looked to speak up about and investigate this potential barrier to ongoing heat pump uptake and see whether noise could be a potential deal-breaker for a/w heat pumps.

Looking across key heat pump markets, including Germany, France, the UK, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria, we collated the existing information regarding noise regulations relevant for HPs in these markets, and examined their impacts on the eligibility of a/w HP installations i.e. whether typical a/w products and installation locations could inadvertently be breaking noise regulations.

Too loud for their own good

In general, the a/w heat pump industry appears to be going in the right direction. That is, there are solutions in place to comply with noise regulations, even in the strictest of countries:

-          HP noise emission calculators (to compare unit eligibility under specific installation conditions)

-          HP design to reduce noise emissions

-          Training installers to understand HP noise impacts

-          Post-install sound-dampening barriers

Split system manufacturers appear likely to be more impacted by noise regulations, as their systems are noisier (on average) than monobloc systems. However, based on available noise data, products of both type appear to exceed national noise regulations when installed in densely populated residential areas.

How to catch this silent killer before it strikes

Whilst the a/w heat pump industry appears to be on the right track as a whole, there are many manufacturers that could be at risk of having systems that are ineligible for installation in certain countries due to strict noise limits. The question is, what is the best action to take as an individual manufacturer?

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To find out more, listen to our new podcast on noise in the European heating industry by the Delta-ee HeatPod on Youtube or via Soundcloud below. Alternatively, drop us a line at lukas.bergmann@delta-ee.com

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