Efficiency and sustainability have become the center of attention for almost every industry today. To address those needs in the water heating space, leaders in the industry are designing innovative products to help pave the way for a world less reliant on fossil fuels.

As the decarbonization trend continues to gain attention, engineers, contractors, and facility managers will strive to incorporate and specify energy-efficient, green solutions into projects of all sizes and applications. Not only will these solutions positively impact the bottom line, but they also help the planet along the way.

Heat pump technology offers a comprehensive solution for a variety of commercial spaces. The science behind this emerging trend isn’t necessarily new, but using heat pump technology represents the latest movement in sustainable water heating. As more stringent environmental and energy regulations continue to be adopted in the commercial construction space, manufacturers offer options to help comply with both. These new commercial heat pump product lines not only meet government mandates to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, but they also support private, company-directed sustainability goals and plans.


Why Go Green Now?

Many building professionals have begun to focus heavily on the most efficient ways to heat water used in a structure. Reduction in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are often top priorities for both consumers and contractors. As a result, sustainable building guidelines, such as LEED and WELL building certifications, continue to increase in popularity. These guidelines offer benefits for using efficient products and systems as sustainable solutions.

Utility boards and constantly evolving regulations are large factors in the decision-making process for developing the most efficient solutions. Even in regions where government regulations are not as prominent, customers are looking for the most efficient solutions to be early adopters. While most of the “green” emphasis is on the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, the trend is slowly sweeping the nation.

Knowing the importance of this, A. O. Smith has a task force specifically directed at understanding the most recent regulations and rebate/incentive opportunities. This team also stays tightly plugged into initiatives in Washington D.C., meaning they are one of the first to know about new regulatory legislation that could impact product development and Lochinvar/A. O. Smith customers.


How Heat Pump Technology Works

Heat pump technology relies on the principle that it’s more cost-efficient to transfer heat from existing air or water, rather than create it with a fuel source. Especially well-suited for warm and temperate climates but efficient in colder climates too, air-source heat pump water heaters use electricity to pull the heat and humidity from the air to heat the water, cooling and dehumidifying the air as it runs. Heat is extracted from the atmosphere and is directed through a compressor, which increases the temperature and redistributes it into hot water. Water-source units absorb heat from water sources, including return chiller water, process water and groundwater. Designed for indoor or outdoor use, commercial heat pump water heaters work in conjunction with storage tanks and can be tailored to meet specific application requirements.


What It Does for Customers

More established in the residential space, heat pump technology is relatively new in commercial applications. Contractors, facility managers, and other professionals are exploring the benefits of heat pump water heaters for large and small commercial applications, such as quick-service restaurants, office buildings, hotels, hospitals, and airports.

Because they rely primarily on transferring heat from existing sources rather than creating it from a fuel source, the main benefit of heat pump water heaters lies in being a sustainable, clean option for water heating. These products help building professionals contribute to greener building practices across the board. For even the most challenging jobs, these units offer an eco-friendly, pragmatic, and reliable choice.

Additionally, heat pump water heaters offer substantial energy savings. Some options can even provide energy savings of three to four times that of an electric resistance heater. For commercial spaces, it makes sense to install a heat pump system when the space will be occupied by the same tenant for three to five years. That way, its energy savings will be fully realized.

Rebates and incentives are excellent ways for customers to save money while being early adopters of green technology. Heat pump water heaters can make a big impact as sustainability legislation is being considered in more locations across United States.


How to Define the Future

Sustainability and environmentally friendly practices are going to continue to define the business community’s and residential customers’ decisions for years to come. Convincing customers can be tough though — while the upfront cost can be higher than a traditional tank-type water heater, the benefits of heat pump technology can be greater. Helping customers see the long-term benefits and the rebate options available can make all the difference. The efficiency over time makes up for the initial cost and offers adopters a chance to track toward a greener future without having to change systems in just a few years.

Many parts of the country have a 2030 or 2050 plan to reduce levels of carbon emissions by incorporating energy saving technology incrementally. Adopting heat pump technology is another step toward accomplishing those goals. Heat pumps offer an alternative solution to water heating needs on a larger scale, while positively impacting the environment for years to come.


By Dan Rettig and Paul Pohl

Dan Rettig is product manager for Lochinvar. Paul Pohl is product manager for commercial new product development at A. O. Smith.