Hybrid Heat pump by Original Twist
If you are looking at heat pumps then I’ll assume you will have seen this heating system which particularly favours daytime running of Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP), a feature in keeping with the free power from PV panels.
I tend to favour the cheaper and simpler ASHP and this chart shows why. While the GSHP (black line) gradually loses performance over the winter the ASHP can always do better on warmer days (red line) making the two systems closely matched during the daytime. Even though the GSHP easily beats the night time ASHP (blue line) an ASHP system geared towards more daytime running would be a match for the much more expensive GSHP.
However, some new electricity deals for electric car charging (5p/kW.hr at night) make a GSHP quite compelling. It might not be quite so efficient but the running cost is only 25% that of daytime rates. Then there are the Renewable Heat Incentives which are heavily biased towards GSHP at 20.89p/kW.hr versus half that for ASHP. In my view the Government have not thought it through properly; the rates compensate for the cost difference between the systems and not for the performance gap if indeed there even is one.
If only there was a system that could cherry pick the best COP line on the chart for any particular moment but still keep the high RHI payment. It would need to extract heat from the air on most days – red line – and extract heat from the ground at night – black line. The air side would not run at night so the blue line can be deleted. The average COP over the season would be around 4 and that is very good.
Well, that’s easy really and not particularly expensive either.
Original Twist Hybrid heat pump – it’s a GASHP.
This system is particularly suited to the off-grid brigade who need every trick to make a limited energy supply (like the 6kW overclock and tilt) go further.
This is what makes up the system:-
We start with a GSHP unit. I saw a 3kW one on EBAY for £1,500; maybe not MCS approved but that looks like a fair price for a unit that is actually simpler than a complete ASHP. As the name implies we need to feed it with some warmed water from a ground loop or slinky and more on that later.
Air source module
There is already water going in and out of the GSHP unit so warming it with air is simple. Just connect a parallel circuit incorporating a couple of car radiators and a domestic fan or two to make the equivalent of an ASHP for about £200. A simple solar controller brings in the AS module whenever it would be best and we’ll see in a minute how simple the control logic is.
If the module is going to be a bit DIY – rads in back of a kitchen cupboard, fans in the door? – then it would sit nicely in a small greenhouse or somewhere waterproof. Include some black painted barrels of brine to gather and store energy to bleed out when the sun goes down. This raises the COP and also stops the rads frosting up, but with no night time running this is less of an issue.
Two buffer tanks are used to handle the cold water coming out of the GSHP and the warmed water going in. The tanks allow the air side to store daytime energy.
Warm air is a great resource so why not decouple the air source module and let it run whenever there is a benefit, whether the heating demand is on or not. The cold tank will nearly always be available to charge and sometimes the hot tank too. Like the solar stripper circuit on the heating system the solar controller switches tanks easily and simply. When the cold tank is warmed up the flow back into the slinkies is highly beneficial by raising the COP line slightly and delaying that end of season fall off in performance. The straight black line on the COP chart will bend upwards into better COP territory.
Normally the ground starts the winter at around 12C then the GSHP and cold weather gradually take that down to around 0C. Permafrost around slinkies is not unusual. Normal ground loops are designed to perform at the worst end of this so they have to be huge. Not so with ours which can be very much smaller because:-
The ground starts the winter overcharged. We dump heat into it in the summer.
Frequent recharging takes place.
Day time running of the GSHP is less frequent so the ground temperature can recover better.
Towards the end of winter, as the air warms up, the Air Source Module takes on practically all the load.
I’ve done a job where the slinky was trucked down from Switzerland along with a man in a white coat and a bill for thousands; a bit over the top when polyethylene tube from the local builders merchant would be just as good and cost under £300.
The RHI rules forbid a combined chiller unit in the GSHP unit. No worries there mate. In the summer the cold tank can be left to get really cold and a coil can send the cold to the main heating system and on to the fan coil units. Aircon sorted for almost no cost. BTW – the heat pump module will be making heat when the aircon is running so you can heat the pool! Think of the pool heat exchanger as just another radiator on the domestic circuit, it couldn’t be simpler.
So that’s it. Better COPs than a GSHP or an ASHP, full RHI payments, aircon, ground loop recharge, smaller ground loops and much kinder to an off-grid PV system.
Thought for the day
The RHI pays for heat made but not the electricity used to make it. So on a COP of 4 they pay for an effective COP of 3. So if we ran a 3kW GSHP for 4 hours at night on 5p/kW.hr (electric car rate) it would cost 60p. But we would be paid for 36kW.hrs produced at 20.89p £7.52 NICE!