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Energy – Overheating in heat pumps

Manufacturers of heat pumps and process water heat pumps are feeling the pressure that is weighing on households due to price increases and inflation – in a positive sense: demand is increasing. The heat pump manufacturer Austria Email from Knittelfeld in Styria, for example, sold 50 percent more domestic water heat pumps in the first half of the year than in the same period of 2021. For heating heat pumps, demand has even doubled compared to the previous year, says Austria Email CEO Martin Hagleitner.

The hot water heat pump extracts the energy required to heat water from the ambient air and only requires a small amount of auxiliary electrical energy. When operated with green electricity from photovoltaics (PV), the heat pump even works climate-neutral, according to the company. The investment costs for a household – excluding funding – amounts to 3,500 euros. Austria Email developed the Eco Grid electric water heater for the multi-storey residential building, which can also be used to integrate a local PV system without any wiring effort compared to conventional PV systems. With this system, water is heated and stored when the cheapest electricity is available.

With this offer, the company sees the opportunity to save costs and protect the climate with little investment – also with regard to the Renewable Heat Act (EWG).

The law, which has not yet been passed, provides for the phase-out of oil heating systems by 2035 and gas heating systems by 2040. Manfred Denk, Federal Guild Master of Installers, speaks of an “overheating” of demand. “As an industry, we see the schedule provided for in the Renewable Heat Act as a forecast. The conversion is feasible within this period.”

Changeover is possible

However, he warns that all households should replace their gas heating immediately. Because on the one hand this is not immediately necessary in apartments and houses with, for example, an energy-saving gas condensing boiler, on the other hand he refers to the increasing electricity demand that arises from heat pumps, “especially in the heating season, when photovoltaic electricity is used for a few hours a day there,” says Denk. Then fossil fuels such as coal and gas, as well as nuclear energy would certainly be used, namely in the generation of electricity. “One will have to think about using green gas, especially in urban areas, and not installing heat pumps everywhere. The lines for this are there,” says Denk. If one considers all possibilities, including those of saving energy at home, the schedule given in the EWG will be achievable. The EwG even provides for the operation of gas boilers that are operated with green gas beyond 2040. In the past, environmental organizations such as Global 2000 and WWF have criticized this as “completely absurd” and called for a complete shutdown of fossil heating systems.

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Martin Hagleitner from Austria Email also advocates a careful conversion. “If someone has a modern condensing boiler, they have enough time to make the switch. The service water heat pump is an intermediate step in reducing dependence on gas. It is underestimated that hot water and heating account for the greatest energy consumption in households,” says Hagleitner. Industry representatives such as Thomas Mader, Austrian Managing Director of the heat pump manufacturer Stiebel Eltron, referred to a short-term need for 10,000 energy planners and installers when it comes to implementing the heat transition as quickly as possible.

There are around 6,400 plumbing companies in Austria, around 1,300 of them in Vienna. Recently there has also been an increase in interest in an apprenticeship to become a plumber, says Denk.

Incidentally, Germany is pushing the conversion to heat pumps. From 2024, 500,000 new heat pumps are to be installed in our German neighbors every year – compared to the 150,000 that have been installed annually so far. The demand at Austria Email also increased accordingly: from a low level by at least 200 percent.

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