The Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and heat pump manufacturers, have launched the Residential Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge, announced back in May.
“This challenge will increase the availability of high performance, energy efficient heat pumps for Canadian cold climate temperatures, while also innovating to design units that are more efficient across a broader range of operating conditions, ultimately benefiting Canadian homes and businesses,” states NRCan. “Given Canada’s varying climate landscape, it is important to continue to encourage innovation and provide leadership to define cold weather space heating needs so that the next generation of cold climate heat pumps, built by global manufacturers, can better address cold weather applications in the future.”
“We are eager to take our offerings to the next level to further reduce reliance on inefficient backup heating sources, while also leveraging digital solutions to optimize building operations, driving building decarbonization deeper, faster and closer to net zero,” explains Katie McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability, government, and regulatory affairs officer with Johnson Controls.
It is still too early at this stage of the challenge to confirm whether or not the findings will be included in future iterations of the National Building Code of Canada or the National Energy Codes of Canada for Buildings, reports NRCan. However, “Canada is committed to improving energy efficiency in buildings and achieving net-zero by 2050.”
The Cold Climate Heat Pump (CCHP) Technology Challenge begins with a product prototype stage which will begin in late 2021 to early 2022. Next begins the lab testing stage in 2022, followed by field testing in the winter of 2022 to 2023, or 2023 to 2024, with the final deployment programs/commercialization stage completed in 2024.
The end goal will be to demonstrate the CCHP performance in lab and pilot sites and launch future pilot programs. “There are many myths about heat pumps that typically stem from experiences with split systems prior to cold climate systems,” explains Steve Cornelius, business development representative with Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada. Typically, these myths follow the idea that heat pumps cannot provide enough heat in colder Canadian temperatures. “Seeing that systems are able to provide heat past -25C, if sized correctly, this will suffice most homeowners.” Additionally, Cornelius reports that the next generation of Mitsubishi cold climate products will have 100 per cent capacity available at -20C.
Space heating is considered a contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Canada’s homes and buildings, explains NRCan. “Working together with our U.S. neighbour on a topic in support of moving towards net-zero by 2050 is good for the climate, good for Canadians heating their homes and businesses, and for the market. Canada and the U.S. have an integrated market for many products, and the design of the next generation of energy efficient heat pumps is a shared interest of both of our countries,” explains NRCan.
The challenge focuses on residential, centrally ducted, electric-only heat pumps, and is broken into two segments: one for CCHP optimized for -15C operation and for CCHP optimized for -26C.
Manufacturers will be able to choose to participate in one or both segments of the challenge. Challenge submissions are limited to models that have a nominal cooling capacity (or nominal heating capacity for a heating-only heat pump) greater than or equal to 24,000 btu/h and less than or equal to 65,000 btu/h, meet all the challenge specification requirements, and comply with all applicable federal and state standards and regulations.
Performance requirements for the challenge are based on seasonal heating, auxiliary heat, low global warming potential requirements, and connected product criteria.
“The largest barrier to the adoption of residential air source heat pumps in colder climates is the challenge of efficiently meeting a building’s heating load during harsh winter months. When outdoor temperatures are too cold for a heat pump to operate efficiently, backup heating is required, which is often served by electric resistance,” explains McGinty.
The DOE will collaborate with heat pump manufacturers to develop a test procedure to verify CCHP performance through lab testing. They will also provide technical and administrative support throughout the field testing and will coordinate progress between manufacturers, utilities, state agencies, and other stakeholders. To participate in the challenge, contact the DOE at E3Initiative@ee.doe.gov.