Central air-source heat pumps have become very popular in recent years as end users yearn to move away from fossil fuels and as technology has improved to a point where heat pumps can be used in a broader range of climates.
Manufacturers are responding to the growing demand by offering cutting-edge heat pumps that offer advanced controls, improved energy usage, and higher heating efficiencies. And, with consumers demanding even greater energy savings and comfort control, they are already hard at work on the next generation of heat pumps.
Today’s heat pumps offer a wide range of advanced features that satisfy consumers’ demands for supreme comfort and energy savings as well as contractors’ desires for easier installation and service.
Rheem’s cutting-edge technology is displayed in its 20-SEER variable-speed heat pump, which can be paired with its EcoNet control system.
“The RP20 model delivers the ultimate in precise comfort control, energy savings, and enhanced IAQ to the homeowner,” said Farooq Mohammad, director, product management, air conditioning division, Rheem Mfg. Co. “For contractors, EcoNet auto configures the system setting as soon as it is connected. Adjustments are made by simply touching a screen. From a serviceability standpoint, EcoNet provides in-depth diagnostics on almost every aspect of the system to take out the guesswork and streamline the service call.”
Advanced technology allows Trane’s TruComfort XV20i and American Standard’s AccuComfort Platinum 20 heat pumps to deliver cooling efficiency up to 20 SEER and heating efficiency up to 10 HSPF.
“These systems vary the output capacity in as small as 0.1 percent increments, creating a precise and wide operating range. They are also very quiet,” said Jeff Tyminski, director of product management, heat pumps and air handlers, Trane and American Standard. “The fully communicating system allows for a very easy installation process for contractors, and with Nexia Dealer Diagnostics, these units can be monitored remotely by dealers.”
Carrier’s Infinity® heat pump line features remote access through a mobile application, which provides end users with energy-tracking capabilities, scheduling, and service alerts.
“For contractors, when an Infinity control is paired with an indoor or outdoor unit, the system is able to self-configure, which makes the install process go smoothly,” said Todd Nolte, cooling product manager, Carrier Corp. “The control automatically commissions the system on behalf of contractors and offers advanced diagnostics via the wall control or on the web. This accessibility saves contractors time and allows them to provide more efficient customer service.”
Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. recently released its first air-source heat pump — the Inverter Ducted Split System (IDS) — which delivers a cooling efficiency of 18 SEER and heating efficiency of 9.5 HSPF.
“This is a smart, cost-effective, inverter drive heat pump that requires no special thermostats or controls,” said Lyndal Moore, North America national sales manager, wholesale AC products, Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. “Utilizing the indoor air handler as a sensor, the condensing section’s logic is able to modulate the system to both satisfy heating and cooling demands and dehumidify the structure. The IDS evaporator coil, when paired with a furnace or a Bosch hydronic air handler along with an IDS outdoor condensing section, will deliver some of the best comfort levels and efficiency on the market today. And thanks to an insulated compressor compartment and silent blade technology, the outdoor condensing unit reduces sound levels as low as 56 decibels.”
Featuring up to 23.5 SEER and 10.2 HSPF, the Lennox XP25 heat pump offers Precise Comfort® technology, which maintains conditions within 0.5°F of set temperature for optimal comfort.
“The system continually makes small adjustments in cooling and heating output to hold the temperature exactly where the homeowner wants it all year-round,” said Julie Blakely, senior product marketing manager of cooling products, Lennox Intl. Inc. “When combined with the iComfort® S30 smart thermostat, advanced diagnostics enable dealers the ability to pre-stock their trucks with items needed for potential repair prior to arriving at the home, thus reducing callbacks.”
While today’s heat pumps feature many advanced technologies to boost comfort and save energy, manufacturers are already working on next-generation units. These units will embrace the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows devices to sense, communicate, interact, and collaborate with each other.
“Efficiency is really the name of the game when it comes to developing new heat pump technology, and that comes with furthering connectivity,” said Moore. “Regardless of industry, everything is moving into the IoT realm, including heat pumps. The more data that can be sourced about a specific product, the easier it is to increase efficiency, customize comfort levels, and even remedy repair situations in a timelier fashion.”
That is why Carrier is making a significant investment in improving the functionality of heat pumps as it relates to IoT-enabled smart controls, including offering integration with third-party smart home systems, like Amazon Echo and Apple HomeKit.
“We are also committed to delivering smarter controls to improve the connection between contractors and their customers as is available in our expanded lineup of Côr thermostats as well as enhanced energy consumption reporting,” said Nolte. “And, finally, we will be introducing more efficient fans and motors that will benefit homeowners by reducing both the size of the system and resulting noise. We are still five to 10 years from seeing this technology in the field.”
Lennox plans to continue investing in controls technologies that ensure dealers can provide the best possible service and functionality to their customers.
“We also expect further increases in SEER and EER to help Southern customers save during the long, hot summers and increases to HSPF and low-ambient heating capacity to make heat pumps more economically feasible in Northern climates,” said Trent Davis, senior product manager, heat pumps and air handlers, Lennox Intl. Inc. “Some of these enabling technologies are available today, and others may be three to five years down the road before they’re commercialized.”
With increasing minimum efficiency requirements and new refrigerants poised to enter the market, Rheem is already considering what comes next for heat pumps. “The next minimum efficiency standard is set to be effective in January 2023, and as the baseline continues to increase, we expect to see higher-efficiency products with more efficient compressors, motors, and heat exchangers being introduced,” said Mohammad. “When the refrigerant change happens, homeowners will enjoy higher-efficiency and more environmentally friendly products while contractors will obviously have to go through a transition period handling multiple refrigerants and following the appropriate handling procedures.”
Variable-speed technologies will continue to play a large part in next-generation heat pumps, as well, said Tyminski, only they will likely be less expensive and serve a larger portion of the marketplace.
“Continued advancement in connected systems and predictive diagnostics will also enable systems that self-identify and notify dealers of potential system problems,” he said. “In addition, advances around utility demand response and next-generation refrigerants are expected in the coming years.”
While all these advances are likely to add some cost to the heat pumps of tomorrow, customers are likely to see the benefits of opting for a better system.
“There will always be some customers looking for the bare-bones solution and others willing to pay more for a higher quality product,” said Moore. “Contractors have a responsibility to outline the cost-benefit analysis of investing in a heat pump that may produce better results and have a greater lifetime, thus costing less over time. Sometimes, the products priced at a premium are worth it for a reason, and contractors and consumers are seeing that.”
Publication date: 5/29/2017