Heat pumps come into their own: the ‘other’ solar

Its a technology that harks back to the 1970s when two engineers were seeking a solution to heat a pool at the fraction of the cost of conventional gas heater, but it has only been in the past five plus years that heat pump technology has significantly evolved – and Australian pool owners have begun to realise the myriad benefits that heat pumps provide

In that time there have been a number of key developments in heat pumps, says Bryan Goh from Waterco, whose heat pump division has been manufacturing heat pumps since 1986. Major enhancements have been the lowering of noise levels; enhanced, higher efficiency; ozone-friendly refrigerant; and greater durability.Heat pumps work like a reverse cycle air conditioner by extracting ambient heat from the atmosphere, which is then transferred to the pool water. A highly efficient, low cost option, heat pumps come in a number of different sizes ranging from 2kW to 200kW output. And compared with gas heaters, with heat pumps you can save up to 80 per cent over LPG and 50 per cent over natural gas.

“It’s a different ‘type’ of solar pool heating,” says Adam Shelley, Product Manager with Zane Solar & Heating (part of the Waterco group). “Depending on the time of year, three to seven times the heat energy can be absorbed from air, compared to the actual power consumed. It means the new generation heat pump pool heater is very efficient and the heating costs are much lower than with gas pool heaters.

“And with the massive increases in electricity prices around Australia, it stands to reason that there’s more interest in energy-efficient pool equipment such as heat pumps. And the great thing about heat pump systems is that they are not weather dependent and can be operated throughout the year.”

Global acceptance

Today Waterco sells its heat pumps in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and South America. “Canada, in particular, is leading the way in the take up of heat pump pool heaters,” Bryan Goh adds.

He says heat pump sales in Australia are improving due to better market acceptance of the technology. “Obviously heat pumps are cheaper to run compared to gas heaters, plus they don’t require gas connection or supply. If a single phase heat pump is being installed, they are cheaper and quicker to install.

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