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James Parker looks at how a new product launch can offer sustainable heating to tower blocks

The drive towards zero carbon, and the Future Homes Standard, are all very well for standard, three-bedroom houses, but what about high-rises?

So far, bringing in renewable heating for such locations has often meant installing an CHP plant or a biomass-based system, both of which come with their share of challenges.

Large tower blocks will obviously struggle to have an air source heat pump to every dwelling, or even to provide air source heating via the central plant model that most such buildings use.

Low temperature heat networks, powered by water-to-water pumps, might be the way forward.

Such building-appropriate solutions as Hydrodan enable clients to make the appropriate decisions for their sites

James Parker James Parker Editor of Architects DataFile

Water source

Water source heat pumps are generally thought to often offer greater efficiency than ground and air source devices, because heat transfers more effectively in water than air, and water temperatures are generally more stable throughout the year (between 7 and 12 degrees on average), and therefore warmer than the air and ground.

The new Ecodan Hydrodan ‘water to water’ electric heat pump, from Mitsubishi Electric, has been designed to fill this need in apartment buildings.

It is designed to take a cold inlet and produce low temperature (10-30ºC) heat and water sustainably which can be distributed across a large building, and the low temperature means a number of water source units can be installed, even in individual apartments.

Avoiding heat loss and overheating

It can also treat the network as a heat sink when the cooling need is at such a level that plant is putting out high levels of surplus heat.

The network itself will then function as an ‘energy store,’ topping up heat in the system from that rejected from cooling plant.

The heat losses across the building which are prevalent in higher temperature networks are reduced, helping reduce overheating risk in apartments, says the company.

The firm believes that its new launch will enable renewable heating for such buildings to no longer be reliant on CHP or biomass, and that plugging this gap will help move heat pumps further into the mainstream, by enabling most homes to be tackled.

It’s also designed to work with a low quantity of refrigerant to reduce its environmental impact further, and will of course work with radiators, fan coils and underfloor heating.

The Government wants to install 600,000 heat pumps per year before 2028 to try and hit the zero carbon targets.  

It’s only by considering such building-appropriate solutions as Ecodan Hydrodan that clients such as housing associations are going to be able to make the appropriate decisions for their sites.

A sad loss

As an aside, it’s important when mentioning heat pumps to mark the sad passing of Mitsubishi Electric’s communications manager, Max Halliwell, aged just 54.

He was reputedly a larger than life character, but also very active in the efforts to bring heat pumps to the front of the industry agenda, which he arguably succeeded completely in, as vice chairman of the Heat Pump Association.

He will be greatly missed as the industry seeks to find the best solutions to reduce carbon towards 2050.

James Parker is editor of Architects Datafile