Heat pumps

Heat pumps move heat from a low-temperature source, usually the ground or ambient air, to a high-temperature demand, like space or water heating. The performance of heat pumps depends strongly on the temperature of the source: the higher, the better.

The use of advanced storage technologies has several advantages for heat pump systems. For example, in combination with a thermal storage, a heat pump can use electricity only when prices are low. This helps to decrease operating costs for the end user; on a larger scale, this helps to stabilise the electricity demand and minimise load peaks in the electricity grid.

In addition, the use of storage can lengthen the lifetime of a heat pump systems by decreasing the number of required start-ups. Finally, it is possible to use smaller, cheaper heat pumps, because the storage can shave peaks in demand, reducing the required maximum power delivered by the heat pump.

The heat pump market

Worldwide heat pump sales amount to approximately 1.4 billion euros in 2006. Of this, 58% was sold in Europe, 23% in the Americas, and 19% in Asia.

Within Europe, Sweden has by far the highest penetration of heat pumps. There, the technology first appeared in the late 1970s, and after some early installation problems has reached a high grade of reliability and economy. In Sweden, heat pumps have a share of 90% in domestic heating and hot water. On the other hand, on the very large German market, only 5% of newly built single-family houses are equipped with heat pump systems.

Like many renewable heating markets, the heat pump market is very fragmented, and characterised by a very large number of manufacturers.

Although the use of heat pumps varies strongly between different European countries, the European market for heat pumps generally shows a very dynamic growth. Comparing the market penetration in the leading European countries like Sweden (90%) and Switzerland (50%) with others like Germany (5%) confirms that there is a very large potential for heat pumps in Europe. The European market is expected to grow by 12% annually until at least 2014.

More information

This information is also available in an information leaflet on thermal energy storage for solar heating. More details can be found in one of the PREHEAT reports, Heat storage technologies: markets, actors, potentials.