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CADDET Energy Efficiency

The diffusion-absorption heat pump

submitted by the Dutch National Team

Extensive field-testing of the diffusion-absorption heat pump in 1999 demonstrated that its performance exceeded the maximum output of a traditional central heating unit by 20 to 40%, while lowering gas consumption by 25%. A survey conducted among residents and installers involved in the project showed a high degree of satisfaction, and the manufacturer now plans to introduce the pump onto the market in 2001.
Introduction Nefit Fasto, a major Dutch manufacturer of central heating boilers, presented the results of the pilot scheme at the Amsterdam BouwRAI (a trade event for project development, building, living and working) in April 2000. The company plans to introduce the pump onto the market in the next year. It anticipates that its first customers are likely to be more innovative and energyconscious project developers, housing corporations and consumers. A fuel consisting of water mixed with ammonia supplies the gas-fired heat pump with 1.2 kW of energy. The output of the pump is 3.6 kW. Five different external energy sources were used in the pilot test: outside air, soil heat (from horizontal and vertical soil collectors), surface water and mechanical ventilation air. The basic concept can be compared to a refrigerator resting on a windowsill with its door wide open. In this position, the back of the fridge produces heat inside the room, while cold air is dissipated outside. Valid test results The first gas-fired heat pumps were installed in January 1999 as part of an extensive pilot project conducted by Enercom (a co-operative of energy companies), Nederlandse Gasunie BV (gas supplier to home and international markets) and Nefit Fasto. The pump was installed in different types of housing throughout the Netherlands. The geographical spread was a key parameter for valid test results. The noise-free heat pump can be linked to an existing gas piping system. Over 60 heat pumps were installed in seven free-standing houses, 27 corner or end houses, and 29 terraced houses. Half of these buildings were equipped with radiators designed for a 50/70C heating system, whereas radiators for 70/90C systems were found in about 20 houses. Six houses had both radiators and floor heating; in one house, the system consisted solely of floor and wall heating. Tests on the gas-fired heat pump showed an average increased performance of 20%, with frequent peaks of 40%, compared to a current high efficiency (HE) boiler. In

Photo 1: The gas-fired heat pump (right) was supplemented by the HE central heating boiler (left) in the pilot project. 19

Special Issue on the Netherlands 2000

CADDET Energy Efficiency

addition to the gas-fired heat pump, all house owners were provided with a Nefit HE boiler and an indirectly fuelled hot water boiler to guarantee the continuous availability of heating and hot water.

Separate sources The gas-fired heat pump has an output capacity of 3.6 kW. This formed the larger part of the basic load in practically all full-scale models in the test. Supplementary heating from the HE boiler was required only for peaks in the heating demand and to heat tap water to 60C. Of the 3.6 kW generated by the gasfired heat pump, 1.2 kW is taken from the external source, says Paul Vloon, who heads the Nefit Fasto research department. For most of the year, this suffices for the central heating and warm water supply in the average home. The system is clearly capable of providing a constant basic load.

We used five different sources in our full-scale models to survey the widest possible range of options. Mostly we deployed air collectors, which are like car radiators, drawing heat from the outside air. But we also had horizontal and vertical soil collectors, one specially designed heat collector which extracts heat from surface water and one which extracts heat from the mechanical ventilation system. In all but a few cases, an energy withdrawal of 1.2 kW proved to be adequate. The soil collector model required for the gas-fired heat pump, for example, was much smaller than the one required for the electric heat pump.

electricity consumption by the pump; number of starts; hours of operation of each installation; temperatures; flow (energy transport) in each installation.

Extensive monitoring The 67 test installations were linked to a central computer, which monitored the following parameters continuously: gas consumption of the heat pump and central boiler;

Besides the rough measurements, we monitored seven representative installations even more frequently and extensively, says Vloon. Our system, which consisted of a gas-fired heat pump with 50/70C radiators, a supplementary HE boiler, a hot-water boiler acting as buffer and an outside air heat collector as its source, showed an improvement of 15% over a current HE boiler with an indirectlyfuelled hot-water boiler. Replacing the air collector by a soil collector increased the performance by 7%, and this was raised by another 5% if floor heating was used rather than radiators. The gas-fired heat pump yields an output, or Coefficient of Performance (COP), of more than 1.4, equivalent to a COP of 3.5 for an electric heat pump.

Photo 2: The air sources on the roof supplied free energy to the heat pump. Supplementary heating Vloon emphasises the opportunities when the pump is used for the retrofitting of buildings already fitted with gas heaters. The electric infrastructure in such cases is often inadequate, whereas the gas piping system never is. Residents can save as much as 15 to 27% in gas consumption by using the gas-fired pump. The measurements conducted during the pilot project showed that the pump operated about six times as many hours as the supplementary HE boiler, unless the system was fitted with radiators requiring relatively large quantities of heat within short periods of time. This short-term demand could not always be met by the gasfired heat pump. Nefit, however, expects that adjustments to the process control of the radiators will help solve this problem. Apart from process 20
Special Issue on the Netherlands 2000

CADDET Energy Efficiency

How does the diffusion-absorption heat pump work?

A mixture of water and ammonia is heated by the internal burner to 160C. The resulting ammonia gas rises from the mixture in a process similar to that in the vertical pipe of a coffee maker (see schematic). The gas is forced into a narrow horizontal pipe, where the higher pressure causes the gas to condense.
1.2 kW NH3 liquid Total 3.6 kW < +160C NH3 gas

Evaporator -25C


The heat, released during the liquefying of the ammonia, is transferred directly to the central heating water. The ammonia fluid has nowhere to go but down, by way of a vertical pipe, and ends up in a vessel with sufficient volume to lower the pressure. Heat from the external source is then used to re-evaporate the ammonia. To re-mix the ammonia with the water, the gas is guided through helium - a lighter gas - forcing it downward into the absorber. The generated heat is then transferred to the central heating system a second time. The water and ammonia are mixed and heated, and the entire process starts again, silently and continuously.

2.4 kW NH3 H2O

H2O Natural gas

control, the parameters benefiting the most from improvement are the energy source and the heat-emitting system. The soil proved to be the most efficient source in this test. Its temperature is constant and sufficiently high. Regarding emission of heat, a floor/wall system is preferable due to its gradual increase in temperature. This gradual heating process should be automated. An installation with a gas-fired heat pump is best left at room temperature around the clock, although the economical Dutch may need some time to grow accustomed to this idea.

of the others expressed satisfaction. The major reason for this success was the high degree of comfort provided by both the heating and the hot-water systems. Eighty percent of the residents were satisfied with regard to ease of operation, noise level and reliability of the equipment. The main complaint concerned the large space required for the equipment, but this will be solved during the production stage, when the pump, central heating boiler and hot-water boiler will be integrated in a single appliance. The pilot project provided twelve different installation companies with the opportunity to gain practical experience with the gas-fired heat pump. They, too, found the equipment to be unwieldy and heavy, especially for installation in attics. The piping was considered very extensive, but this too will be integrated in the

equipment to be marketed. The technology of the pump and the installation of the source presented little or no problem to 80% of the installers. I can understand the criticism, says Paul Vloon, as the operation and performance of the system have so far been our main concern. We are now working on the practical aspects. The height is needed for the process, but the improved and integrated model will be far more user-friendly.

The pros and cons for users and fitters A survey among 50 households showed that half of the users were highly satisfied and all but one or two

For further information please contact: Mr Paul Vloon Nefit Fasto PO Box 3 7400 AA Deventer, The Netherlands, Tel.: +31-570-678585. 21

Special Issue on the Netherlands 2000