As the HVACR industry continues to manufacture new products with decarbonization and electrification in mind, some manufacturers are taking their dedication a step further by participating in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Residential Cold Climate Heat Pump (CCHP) Technology Challenge.
The Challenge has two segments: one for CCHPs optimized for 5°F operation and the other for CCHPs optimized for -15°F. Manufacturers can choose to participate in one or both segments. The deadlines for the challenge are as follows:
- Product prototype: late 2021/early 2022
- Lab testing: early-mid 2022
- Field testing: winter 2022-23 or 2023-24)
- Deployment programs/commercialization: 2024
Ten manufacturers have confirmed their participation in the Challenge.
A spokesperson from Bosch noted that the company is currently working toward the Challenge.
The DOE’s Challenge lays the groundwork for the reduction of fossil fuels through electrification, said Heidi Gehring, associate director of cooling product marketing at Carrier. In order to fulfill this goal, she noted that those involved in the Challenge should be working in collaboration with power companies to help minimize strain on the electric grid. Along with electrification, the industry is also dealing with a shift in refrigerant use.
COLLABORATION: Carrier works with the Department of Energy to develop a next-generation heat pump product that meets the Challenge’s specifications. (Courtesy of Carrier)
“For the field testing, a challenge we're anticipating is getting the approval to install A2L refrigerant systems in homes,” she added. “Many jurisdictions don't have the building codes in place and established to support the use of A2Ls, so this is a challenge that we're going to have to navigate to allow the field trials to occur.”
Despite these future challenged, Gehring said Carrier is happy with the progress it has made so far. She noted that phase one of the lab testing results were positive and the company looks forward to phase two.
Daikin Comfort Technologies
According to Kelly Hearnsberger, vice president – advanced product marketing, Daikin Comfort Technologies North America Inc., Daikin has worked with the DOE and other stakeholders to develop CCHP specifications. He noted that as a major HVAC manufacturer, Daikin believes that it has a responsibility to contribute to the advancement of electrification and heat pump technology, leading the industry away from the use of fossil fuels. Along with these goals, Daikin also hopes to demonstrate the technical and environmental advantages of R-32 refrigerant.
“Daikin holds a core belief to contribute to society with sustainable energy efficiency products, improving human comfort and safety,” Hearnsberger explained. “[We] appreciate the willingness of DOE to sponsor this challenge and promote the technology shift.”
He said despite recent supply chain shortages, Daikin is on track with validating the designs of its CCHP units in its laboratory. The company expects to follow the Challenge timeline, Hearnsberger added, and strives for a 2024 market release.
Since the Challenge was announced last fall, Mark Lessans, senior director of sustainability and regulatory affairs at JCI, said Johnson Controls’ product teams have been hard at work to build a product that would meet the given specifications. He said through regular engagement with DOE during the development process, the company has been able to discuss design challenges, mitigation strategies, and expectations of product performance.
Lessans noted that Johnson Controls’ product had achieved the Challenge’s performance requirements during its lab testing phase. He added that their next steps will be to execute product development to build a commercially sound heat pump, conduct additional testing, and then send the product to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to certify its performance as per DOE’s guidelines.
“Meeting the specifications of the Challenge would represent an evolution in heat pump performance and another step forward in expanding our solutions that lower our customers’ carbon footprint,” said Lessans. “Beneficial electrification is a critical strategy for building decarbonization.”
Two years before the Challenge was even announced, Tim Brizendine, director of product management – cooling products at Lennox International, said Lennox’s Advanced Technology team was already working on the development of a CCHP. Currently, the company is working with the DOE on identifying field trial sites and will be providing units for the upcoming winter season.
“Lennox developed and tested a 3-ton prototype CCHP and was the first OEM to meet the CCHP specification in DOE’s test laboratory,” said Brizendine. “The next step is to develop and commercialize a cost-effective product.”
He noted that despite the demanding specifications of the Challenge, Lennox has been focused on the CCHP space for some time, which gives them an advantage. Brizendine said that the DOE’s initiative speaks to Lennox’s ongoing commitment to energy efficient, sustainable products, adding that the company hopes to develop alternate heating solutions for colder climates that maximize comfort and efficiency, while minimizing overall environmental impact.
COLD CLIMATE: LG’s Reliable to Extreme Degrees (LGRED) technology is specifically designed for cold climates (Courtesy of LG)
LG’s Reliable to Extreme Degrees (LGRED) technology is specifically designed for cold climates, said Brian Bogdan, senior director of engineering at LG Electronics USA Inc. The product’s models offer “continuous operation down to -22° F and 100% of nominal capacity down to 5°F.” He said the company intends on developing its heat pumps to continue to push toward higher efficiencies. He added that LG in sync with the Challenge’s objectives and timelines and that the company is committed to delivering and testing solutions that will keep it moving forward.
Bogdan said LG embraces the DOE’s decarbonization efforts through electrification, especially since these values align with the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. By providing highly efficient heat pumps and employing inverter technology, Bogdan said LG is well-suited to meet DOE goals while moving away from fossil fuels.
“The Challenge is an excellent example of the private and public sectors working together to advance this technology, and LG is proud to be part of it,” he commented.
Midea has been in the ductless market for a long time, said David Rames, senior product manager at Midea, but two years ago, the company decided to enter the ducted central HVAC market. Due to this shift, when the Challenge was announced, Rames said it fell easily into Midea’s new path.
“We believe in everything that this Challenge stands for — electrification of everything, decarbonization, and stepping away from the fossil fuels,” explained Rames. “Unlike a lot of our competitors, we don't offer a gas-fired product here. Our plan is to perfect the electrification of everything.”
Although the company’s product design process started before joining the Challenge, Rames said Midea is pushing to meet the DOE’s second deadline, in 2023. He added that it’s one thing for a product to meet the DOE’s requirements, but it’s another to have one that surpasses all expectations — Midea’s goal is to have a product that excels.
Mitsubishi Electric US (METUS)
METUS has been offering customers its Hyper-Heating INVERTER (H2i) heat pumps for over a decade, said Kennard Edwards II, manager – R&D engineering at METUS, which boast “100% heating capacity at 5°F or -5°F (depending on the system) and continue to guarantee heating capacity down to -13°F.” He said given the requirements of the Challenge, METUS is on track to meet its goal of test completion by Spring 2023, before the DOE deadline.
“At this stage, we’re preparing to send our updated cold-climate heat pump prototypes out for third-party testing in a controlled environment,” Edwards added.
According to the Edwards, the Challenge provides a good opportunity for the company to show how heat pumps can help reduce carbon emissions while providing reliable comfort in all climates. He said the Challenge will also help guide the industry toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which METUS is “grateful” to be a part of.
According to Karen Meyers, vice president for government affairs at Rheem, the company was already working on a CCHP before it formally joined the DOE’s Challenge. Meyers added that Rheem’s vision and sustainability goals include educating channel partners on sustainable practices, zero waste to landfill, and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — which happen to fall in line with the DOE’s initiative.
“While we’re on track to meet our initial targets by our 100th anniversary in 2025, the DOE challenge is a good opportunity to look to the next generation of product designs and technology to expand on our success in the future,” she said.
Rheem’s currently working on validating the prototype for the Challenge, aiming to have it ready for field trial this coming winter, said Meyers. She said the company is also looking to reserve testing time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Meyers added that Rheem views the Challenge as an opportunity to change perceptions about heat pumps, opening the door to future product plans.
When the DOE initiative was first announced, Trane Technologies had already developed a product that it knew would be perfect for the Challenge, said Katie Davis, vice president of engineering and technology - residential HVAC and supply at Trane Technologies. Davis added that the product has now been shipped to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where it will undergo the initial testing phase, as well as verification testing in the field, starting this coming winter.
Davis said this Challenge will help the industry shift away from fossil fuel burning, to heat pumps that are fully electrified. Not only is decarbonization great for the industry, but she noted that it will be great for the world, as it will build a stronger future for generations to come.
“They call it a Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge — not a competition — and I think that's really important,” explained Davis. “We all compete every day with each other in the market and this situation causes us all to be partners to achieve the goal of advancing research and development in the electrification of heating. Everyone wins.”