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Is a heat pump the solution?

The supply without gas has been a big issue for a long time. The war in Ukraine has made this topic even more important and topical. The question now is how a supply without gas and oil can function. The answer: heating with electricity and a heat pump. But how useful are heat pumps anyway?
Does a heat pump make sense? Heating requires a lot of energy and therefore causes a lot of carbon dioxide in most cases. Almost three-quarters of households in Germany are equipped with oil or gas heating. A change should have taken place in this area some time ago. However, the Ukraine war has increased the pressure significantly. Of course, many residents wonder how high the risks of moving away from fossils are. Heat pumps are an alternative to oil and gas heating. These are particularly suitable for smaller households.

The traffic light coalition has presented an energy relief package, including a heat pump offensive. The goal is for at least 65 percent of the built-in heating systems to be operated with renewable energy by 2024. Is a heat pump the solution? Unfortunately, heat pumps are only climate-neutral with electricity from renewable sources and are unsuitable for all apartments.

Heat pumps only work climate-neutrally with electricity from renewable sources However, the heat pump is not a new invention. The heat pumps extract heat from natural sources and increase it. However, these devices only work completely CO₂-neutral if the electricity comes from renewable sources. Thomas Auer from the Technical University of Munich says that the principle is similar to a refrigerator. In 1880, Carl von Linde developed a refrigeration machine. Professor Auer explained that after around 150 years, this technology can now be described as relatively mature.


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The problem with heat pumps

Negative analyses of the ratio of the amount of heat given off occur repeatedly. The fault is the wrong regulation, explained Auer. It's not easy to set them up correctly. If the principle is wrong, the effect of such systems can be absurd. The climate advantage is gone if the electricity comes from fossil sources. The rather tricky settings are therefore a big problem. The UBA, therefore, requires an efficient display for the devices. However, the heaters do not yet have this function. The problem is that installers have little interest in monitoring success. Manufacturers are also not interested in selling devices equipped with it. An inefficient heat pump can result in high costs and also pollute the environment. With an electricity meter and a heat meter, the consumer could calculate the annual performance factor himself. The heating installers often lack the appropriately qualified personnel for this.

Heat pumps are not suitable for all apartments

According to BDEW data, around 2.8 percent of apartments in Germany are heated with these systems. All significant heating system manufacturers offer heat pumps, Auer explained. The experts are convinced that there will be bottlenecks. Manufacturers are also critical of the focus on heat pumps. Interest is growing rapidly, and some municipalities are ordering thousands of devices directly. Another solution must be found for cities to go without oil and gas, Stolte said. Other energy sources would be, for example, geothermal energy, biomass power plants, and large heat pumps. A large proportion of district heating currently still comes from power plants that use fossil fuels. However, scientists do not see wood heating as a solution either. The air as a heating fuel is available in unlimited quantities. That's why it's not uncommon to see air-source heat pumps. However, these do not fare quite as well. "Any other heat pumps are more efficient," explained Stolte.

A heat pump is more expensive than other heating systems

The overall technical costs of heat pump systems are higher than with gas and oil heating. There are heat pumps that use the warmth of the earth. These are temperature stable. However, there can be a slight temperature difference between the heated center of the city center and the periphery, which is supplied with geothermal heat. This is due to the many hoses that have to be laid in the settlements. These systems are not a problem-free solution either. The heat pumps work more effectively the lower the temperature to be reached. Experts advise combining heat pumps with photovoltaics. Choosing the correct refrigerant for the systems is also vital for environmental protection. The power consumption also increases as more heat pumps are installed.


 

Stephen A Poirier
Stephen A Poirier
Stephen A Poirier has worked for more than 10 years at Best Machinery, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.