This collaborative process with BPA has helped us develop a product that will result in significant increases in energy efficiency that benefit homeowners, businesses and utilities.Albert Rooks, CEO of Small Planet Supply
The commercial-grade heat pump water heater sector is largely untapped, offering the potential for significant energy savings consistently throughout the year.
BPA’s energy efficiency engineering group has been working for 12 years to stimulate commercially available heat pumps for water heating in large multi-family buildings. When this initiative began, there were no packaged, easily-purchasable systems. Each system had to be custom engineered and proven, which made them expensive and high-risk to building owners.
The goal of the effort was to create a market with many different vendors and well-performing products in BPA’s service territory. BPA began by working with Washington State University’s Energy Program and Seattle-area engineering consultant, Ecotope, to create a program to systematically review, qualify and test emerging products from heat pump vendors, and encourage the packaging of these systems into pre-engineered units. This process allowed BPA to work with the manufacturers and provide technical review comments on product shortfalls and how to improve the integration into a packaged system. Big-name manufacturers like SANCO2 (previously Sanden), Mitsubishi and Nyle have improved their products following these reviews.
Gov. Inslee’s attention to these emerging technologies was piqued because a small business, Small Planet Supply, has been manufacturing these systems in Washington State. Small Planet Supply chose to work with BPA, at its own expense, to build a product that met specifications designed to achieve higher energy savings.
"This collaborative process with BPA has helped us develop a product that will result in significant increases in energy efficiency that benefit homeowners, businesses and utilities," says Albert Rooks, CEO of Small Planet Supply. Small Planet Supply’s WaterDrop Systems is already available through three participating utilities in BPA’s service territory – Oregon Trail Electric Co-op, City of Bonners Ferry and Seattle City Light.
In addition to the large, untapped potential of energy savings in this sector, heat pump water heating can help reduce peak load. When connected to the grid, these water heating units essentially act as thermal batteries, making it possible to shift energy use away from times of high power demand. Also, heat pumps inherently rely on additional hot water storage (when properly sized) to operate at a lower electric load versus electric resistance heaters. The efficient electric heat pump units also make it attractive for electrification of gas-fired commercial water heating, which is quite popular in urban parts of the Pacific Northwest.
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