Decarbonization of homes is the sustainability challenge of today. It’s the newest addition to the global paradigm shift towards a more sustainable economy. In the automotive industry, agriculture and even in air travel, efforts have already been made to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions from energy sources. Next on the list: homes.
Decarbonization has also come to the attention of European policy makers. The EU in particular recently pledged to “play a central role” in achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
On a national level, the Netherlands will kiss gas goodbye, the French government is stimulating oil boiler replacements, Finland is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2035 and Lower Austria has prohibited oil heating in new buildings.
Lofty goals, but how will these countries achieve them? They are betting on heat pumps. And at Daikin, we are convinced that they’re right. Heat pumps are more than ready to take on the challenge of home decarbonization. They are not a technology of the future, but an established solution, ready to go mainstream.
In Sweden, heat pumps are the default heating system today. In new buildings in some European countries, heat pumps already have up to 50 percent market share.
In the replacement market, it seems that home owners haven’t quite caught on yet. The main challenges for mainstream heat pump adoption in this market seem psychological rather than technological, however.
Many people simply don’t understand how a heat pump works.
Others are of the opinion that heat pumps must be noisy, can’t look nice or simply aren’t there yet in terms of reliability. And maybe homeowners still entertain assumptions about heat pumps that are no longer valid today, simply because the pace of innovation in heat pumps is brisk.
One of those (outdated) assumptions might be efficiency, which until some time ago could have an impact on cost-effectiveness and return on investment.
Air-to-water heat pumps in general tend to show a drop in efficiency when outdoor temperatures go down. At sub-zero temperatures, heat pumps traditionally needed a little help from the electricity grid to offer the required comfort. Of course, this threatens the cost savings and emissions reduction that heat pumps offer.
Newer generations of heat pumps are increasingly capable of high efficiencies, even at lower outdoor temperatures. Our latest air-to-water model heat pump, the Daikin Altherma 3HHT, does not require any additional energy down to minus 15 degrees Celsius outdoor temperature. Innovations like the 3HHT amount to a watershed moment for heat pumps as a replacement for fossil fuel boilers.
Another psychological barrier is the lack of knowledge among installers and architects, which hinders their buy-in. As an industry, we need to go beyond the “heat pump choir” of installers and professionals who are already familiar with airconditioning.
We need to open conversations with installers who have mostly worked with fossil fuel boilers. We should make it easier for them to recommend heat pumps in the replacement market, by making installation more straightforward through great design.
At Daikin, we’re adopting this as a key responsibility, because we think it will greatly accelerate the adoption of heat pumps. Regulation can offer a nudge in the right direction here. The Netherlands is a prime example: it is already offering training on renewables for installers. This supports the shift towards renewable heating solutions.
In other markets, it’s more a matter of removing incentives for fossil fuel that create a barrier to entry for more sustainable alternatives. In Belgium, for instance, the price of gas is low compared to the price of electricity.
The shift to heat pumps requires awareness and attention from all stakeholders.
But our ambition is quite clear: we want a heat pump in every European home. No new home should be built with a fossil fuel boiler and no old boiler should be replaced with a new boiler. Any lingering technological and psychological barriers, we will take on through relentless innovation.
We see this as an integral part of our Environmental Vision 2050, our pledge to provide safe and healthy air environments while striving to reduce CO² emissions to near zero. And we want to make them easy to use and nice to look at.
Reliability, high CO² emission reduction, efficiency and silence are key. This is a part of our pledge to be a key innovator.