Heat pumps

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Heat pumps are coming into increasing use for heating of buildings and for hot water production in commercial as well as industrial applications. Heat pumps use natural heat in a very energy-efficient way.

Energy efficient heat pumps using the natural refrigerant propane (R290) are available for all heat sources. If heat pumps are operated with halogen-free refrigerants, they are especially environmentally friendly because the global warming potentials of these refrigerants are very low and no persistent degradation products are formed from the emitted refrigerants.

Blue Angel for heat pumps

The Blue Angel, the German government's eco-label, has new award criteria for heat pumps since July 2023. Interested companies can now have heat pumps that meet the criteria certified by RAL gGmbH.

The Blue Angel for heat pumps (UZ 230) can be used to label appliances that use natural (halogen-free) refrigerants and are characterized - beyond the legal requirements - by additional environmentally friendly properties. The requirements include stricter minimum energy efficiency values for the operation of heat pumps than those prescribed by the Ecodesign Regulation, so that greenhouse gas emissions are further reduced. In addition, the formation of long-lived degradation products of refrigerants is avoided and, also exceeding the limits of the Ecodesign Regulation, noise emissions are limited. The details can be found in this background study and the award criteria.

Heat pump subsidies

Heat pumps derive heat from the thermal energy that is stored in ambient air, underground or in groundwater.

Heat pumps are eligible for funding through the Federal Incentive for Efficient Buildings (BEG) if they achieve minimum energy efficiency values and are equipped with an energy consumption and efficiency display. The installation of heat pumps with natural refrigerants is recommended. A bonus of 5 percentage points is granted for such heat pumps. From 2028 onwards, only heat pumps with natural refrigerants will be subsidized.

Further details on the BEG including the list of eligible heat pumps can be found on the BAFA (Federal Office of Economics and Export Control) and KfW websites.

Industrial and large heat pumps

Industrial heat pumps work on the same principle as heat pumps that heat individual buildings. There is no precisely defined distinction for this. The distinction is often made on the basis of the significantly higher output ranges of industrial heat pumps. Large heat pumps are also used in heat networks. Moreover, in addition to the classic environmental media of earth, water and air, these also use other heat sources such as process heat, waste heat from building air conditioning or waste water. Depending on the task and dimensions, industrial heat pumps almost always have to be individually planned and installed accordingly. However, there are also "standard industrial heat pumps" with defined performance values and temperatures.

Many large heat pumps already use non-halogenated refrigerants. For example, carbon dioxide (R744), propane (R290), ammonia (R717), and ammonia/dimethyl ether (R723) are all used. In the medium to large capacity range, heat pumps using ammonia as a refrigerant are often in use. In contrast, both non-halogenated refrigerants and fluorinated greenhouse gases are represented in the medium to small capacity range.