Heat Pump Summit & Housing Innovation Alliance Summit Insights

Innovation Insights

Balancing Innovation and Operational Excellence in Today's Changing Industry

Innovation Insights
Published June 27, 2024

Heat Pump Summit

It's clear that as our industry evolves rapidly, there are still things that must be done to ensure optimal performance that have nothing to do with exciting new technologies.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

A portion of the Heat Pump Summit was dedicated to Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs). Here are some takeaways from those sessions:

  • Heat Pump Water Heaters are a proven technology however, things are changing fairly rapidly in terms of equipment and performance.

  • One way to increase efficiency is to use a mixing valve and run the HPWH at 140 degrees.

  • HPWHs don’t like continuous re-circulation! Don’t do that with an HPWH, if using re-circulation, use on-demand systems.

  • Be aware of the cool air that they produce. If possible, locate them in an area that will tend to be warmer. Pay attention to proximity to thermostats to ensure they don’t impact them.

  • “Moving heat is far easier than creating it” – a nice quote that tells the story for heat pumps in general.

  • Don’t duct to the outside in Colorado is general advice. It’s not a written-in-stone thing, but air out = air in so we have to be aware of that in design.

  • HPWH closet specifications are very brand specific – design awareness again.

  • Any HPWH that is Tier 4 is inherently less than 50dB (which is very quiet).

Space Heating Heat Pumps

Of course, there was more than just HPWHs addressed during the summit. Here are the takeaways for Space Heating Heat Pumps:

  • All brands are not created equally with regard to performance. It’s more detailed than just picking a 92% AFUE furnace and the right size to meet the load. Designers have to pay attention to the performance specifications of all Cold Climate Heat Pumps (CCHP).

  • There is a new generation of dual fuel systems that can be an option for some projects, especially if there is some reason.

  • Sizing and installation are just as important as legacy systems. Maybe more so. CCHPs have lots of capacity at low temperatures. They work. Watch out for sizing. For homes that are ES Next Generation, anything over 1ton/1000ft2 may be oversized.

  • Also, just like legacy systems, filters must be cleaned or replaced after construction before occupancy.

  • I think the most important thing to consider in all things heat pump is that basic blocking and tackling are still required. We still need good, thoughtful, and accurate sizing and design (Manual J, D, and S). Performance isn’t guaranteed simply by adopting heat pumps or any technology, for that matter. Installation still matters.

Housing Innovation Alliance Summit

The Housing Innovation Alliance Summit was its typical excellent event. It’s one of the best events to go to, along with EEBA, to get a sense of the trajectory of technology and innovation across the residential construction industry. At this year's event, I noted the following:

  • The drumbeat for off-site construction continues with new and existing entrants making progress in the marketplace. From ADU-focused enterprises to developments built entirely around modular construction, there is a lot of action.

  • I saw multiple interesting district-style systems presented. From power production to ground source systems. Interesting advances are being made that coupled with potential IRA tax implications might pencil for certain projects.

  • Heat pump acceleration is obvious and kind of everywhere. I saw multiple sessions on advances in technology and methodology. I’m particularly interested in the development of solid-state heat exchangers that would eliminate the gaseous refrigerants that we use today.

  • There was also a great deal of discussion about Artificial Intelligence. In particular, there is a good bit of work going into AI with respect to design tools. There are multiple tools available today that designers can leverage to use AI in their design process. Beyond that, as you might expect, in virtually every aspect of construction, someone is attempting to find an AI integration. I’m far from an AI skeptic, but just throwing AI at a problem has never struck me as a good solution. However, not paying attention to what’s happening with AI is a mistake.

Innovation Fuels Fundamental Principles

As we navigate this time of rapid change, it's clear that while technological innovations offer great promise, adhering to fundamental principles like accurate design and meticulous execution remains essential for sustained success in our evolving industry landscape.

About the Author
Steve Byers

Steve Byers

Steve Byers is EnergyLogic's CEO and co-founder. Read more about Steve here.

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