A heat pump is a device, very similar to an air conditioner, which extracts heat energy from ambient air and transfers it into a hot water reservoir. So although not directly solar powered, it uses the sun’s heat energy in an indirect way.
A heat pump is powered by electricity but it only uses about one third of the electrical energy that an equivalent resistance element would be using, thereby reducing your water heating cost (and your carbon footprint) by about 67%.
Heat pumps can be used to heat your domestic hot water, your swimming pool or can be used for under floor heating of a room or house. Heat pumps can also be used for industrial and agricultural heating applications such as fruit washing troughs, baking ovens, etc.
Very often when we assess a client’s home for a solar water heater, we find that a solar solution is not going to work efficiently for one of many possible reasons (wrong roof orientation, shading, erratic hot water usage patterns, etc). This would be an ideal candidate for a heat pump installation.
A heat pump can generally be retrofitted to your existing electric geyser which then simply serves as a hot water storage vessel. The geyser’s element is disconnected and the heat pump does the work at a third of the cost. The electric element remains available as a backup heating source.
Unlike solar water heating where you only have one opportunity per day to heat all you hot water for 24 hours and the storage capacity generally needs to be increased for maximum savings, a heat pump can heat a smaller volume of water many times per day. So there is normally no need to increase the storage capacity compared to a standard electric geyser installation.
A heat pump is not weather dependent like a solar geyser. It will work in all weather conditions – sun, cloud, rain, day and night. And it will always save you money on your electricity bill. A heat pump’s performance is however affected by the ambient air temperature so it will take longer to heat a given volume of water on a cold winter’s night than it would on a hot summer’s day. For this reason, we often recommend a heat pump with a higher rated heating capacity than the element power that it will be replacing to ensure that it will still perform adequately in the coldest conditions it is likely to encounter.
Solar Focus is an authorised installer of three heat pump brands, namely:
ITS Heat Pumps
Firefly Heat Pumps
SIRAC Southern Africa
Our recommendation on which brand to use will depend on the specific site conditions that we find when assessing a site.
Our heat pumps span a wide range of heating capacities from 3kW for a small domestic installation up to 100kW for large scale commercial hot water systems. We also offer high temperature heat pumps for applications requiring water temperatures hotter than domestic hot water.
We are also able to service most other heat pump brands not mentioned above.