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Heat pump projects in $46m DOE funding round

Jun 14, 2023

USA: Projects involving the development of heat pumps and related technologies are included in $46m of funding just announced by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers and Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) funding is designed to help advance cost-effective solutions to successfully electrify buildings across the nation while also improving their energy efficiency and demand flexibility.

“With this funding, the department is providing critical new resources to teams from across the nation to transform game-changing ideas into innovative solutions, creating safer and healthier homes and buildings while cutting energy costs,” said US secretary of energy Jennifer M Granholm.

According to the DOE, more than half of the 29 projects selected will pursue advancements to improve space conditioning and water heating, which accounts for just over half of all energy use in American homes. The remaining projects will help advance other components impacting homes and commercial buildings.

The projects are said to have been chosen through a competitive selection process to find those providing the greatest likelihood of achieving their objectives.

North Carolina State University will receive $1.4m for its work in the development of a novel “lung-inspired” variable-capacity evaporator that uses a multi-port thermal/electronic valve to improve heat pump performance.

Maryland-based R&D consultancy OTS R&D receives $1m to test multiple variable vapour-injection compressors in next generation heat pumps.

The AHRI’s Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute (AHRTI) has been awarded $1.8m to examine two-phase heat transfer and pressure drop performance of low-GWP refrigerants. This is expected to provide critical information on heat exchanger design and enable manufacturers to improve heat pump efficiency.

The University of Maryland will receive a total of $5m for three separate development projects. An award of $1.4m goes to the university for a project to improve the thermal performance of small heat exchanger packages using liquid-to-refrigerant heat exchangers. The university will receive a further $2.3m for a project to design a cold climate rooftop heat pump unit using low-GWP refrigerants and advanced compression techniques. Finally, Maryland university has been awarded $1.3m for its work on the design of a heat pump-integrated cross-media thermal energy storage system. Key to this is a 3D-printed polymer heat exchanger which, it is said, will overcome low thermal conductivity, allowing for load shifting during peak demand periods and reducing heating and cooling demand.

Also working on a cold climate rooftop heat pump unit is the renowned Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue receives $2m for its work in developing a unit using CO2/propane cascaded with a centrifugal system.

The Colorado School of Mines receives $2.1m to develop a small-tank heat pump water heater that uses a PCM heat exchanger. This proposed 30-40 gallon (136-182 litre) unit is designed for low-income housing and includes latent heat storage to reduce the need for peak electricity.

Three projects looking at the development of commercial heat pump water heaters (HPWH) have been chosen for funding. These include $2.3m for a project to demonstrate the viability of commercial HPWHs in multi-family homes in multiple climate zones by the Oregon-based New Buildings Institute; $0.8m for the Electric Power Research Institute to demonstrate and validate cold climate commercial heat pump water heaters for multi-family buildings using a low-GWP refrigerant; $2.5m to

Maryland-based D&R International for its work validating central heat pump water heaters to de-risk the technology, creating a reliable, cost-effective, and repeatable approach to CHPWH deployment.

Thermal energy storage (TES) projects are also included. Three have been included that seek to accelerate adoption of TES in HVAC applications. The University of Wisconsin will receive 2.5m to develop a plug-and-play, multisplit HVAC system incorporating modular thermal storage units. It seeks to reduce electricity power consumption by up to 50% for four hours at a time during periods of peak demand.

Compressor manufacturer Copeland receives $2m to connect a propane heat pump with plug-and-play thermal energy storage modules. The integrated residential HVAC platform for cooling, heating, and DHW is projected to reduce the amount of energy requirement by 40%.

The Georgia Tech Research Corporation is to receive $2.4m to develop a new high-energy, closed-cell thermochemical energy storage module that connects with a residential heat pump to improve efficiency and store energy during periods of peak demand.

The California-based Channing Street Copper Company is receiving $1.5m to develop heat pump minisplits and hot water heaters with integrated battery storage.