R2,1m heat pump project completed




Solartricity heat pumps are custom built to suit specific climatic conditions.
While the aftershock of the three-tier Eskom tariff hike continues to ripple through the market, major users of electricity have sharpened their interest in cost-effective alternative energy sources.

“So much so that we are seeing a surge in enquiries from a wide cross-section of industry and commerce, including mining, manufacturing, healthcare, tourism, correctional services and education,” says Pat Smith, managing director of Solartricity – an energy efficiency company that specialises in heat pump technology.

“Although heat pump technology has been in existence for many years, advances in the technology have widened the scope of possible applications. This is the reason for its growing support as a cost-efficient alternative energy source for high-density facilities which require big volumes of sanitary hot water….such as mine and other industrial changehouses, hospitals, hotels, airports, university residences, residential estates and sports stadiums.

“Heat pumps can cut electricity consumption for water heating by as much as 67% compared with conventional electrical resistance-driven boiler and geyser systems. Given that the effect of the latest Eskom tariff increases will be to double electricity costs over the next three years, the groundswell of interest in alternative energy is not surprising,” says Smith.

But it is not the only factor that is driving industrial and commercial interest and demand.

“In terms of Eskom’s DSM (Demand Side Management) programme, mines and other major industrial and commercial consumers of electricity – which are under pressure to reduce their consumption by 10% – qualify for a subsidy of up to 50% of the costs associated with the installation of alternative energy supply…including heat pump systems.

“The benefit for the mines is that the electricity saved by heat pump technology can be redeployed into their core business of mineral and metal production – without compromising their commitment to an overall 10% reduction in consumption,” says Smith.

“Another market sector which is increasingly embracing heat pump technology is residential property, where recession-ravaged family budgets have little leeway to digest the Eskom tariff rise. However, it is a great consolation for homeowners that Eskom will shortly announce a structured alternative power subsidy system for domestic households,” says Smith.  

The relatively low cost of heat pumps, as opposed to alternative options, together with the subsidy, will significantly reduce domestic water heating costs. (The cost of heating water in households accounts for between 40% and 60% of the average domestic water bill.)

“On the environmental front, an important by-product of heat pump technology is that, by using considerably less electricity, it diminishes emissions of harmful gases – such as sulphur dioxide, methane and carbon dioxide – and thus reduces the carbon footprint of the user,” says Smith.

Unlike solar energy, which is dependent on the sun, heat pumps lift heat from low-temperature, renewable sources (such as air, ground and water) and convert it into useful heat – even at night and in winter….because these sources retain heat.

Meanwhile, the Eskom price hikes are likely to draw significantly more industrial and commercial feet through the “Power & Electricity World Africa” show, which opens its doors at the Sandton Convention Centre next week, and which will have a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, alternative sources and carbon reduction.

“South Africa is clearly at the start of a process that will take it along the same energy efficiency road as Europe where, according to latest industry figures*, heat pump usage by eight major countries** rose by almost 50% from around 393 000 units in 2007 to over 576 000 in 2008 – a trend which has continued into 2009,” Smith concludes.

*Source: European Heat Pump Association

** France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Finland, Italy, Austria and Switzerland


From Greg Kukard – Tel (011) 444 6963 or 082 451 6833
Home >> Links >> Press Office
Heat Pumps In Demand As An Alternative Energy Source Following Eskom Hikes

Energy efficiency company Solartricity has completed a R2,1-million turnkey installation for a demand-side management (DSM) project at the Modikwa platinum mine and expects the project to be commissioned soon.

The mine, which is on the border of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, is a joint venture between miners African Rainbow Minerals and Rustenburg Platinum Mines.

Solartricity has delivered and installed seven industrial heat pumps and a 10 000 bulk-storage vessel at the mine. The heat pumps will be used to heat bulk hot water storage tanks at the change house facilities at Modikwa’s north and south shafts, reports Solartricity financial director Jon Kincaid-Smith.

The project will result in energy savings of about 0,15 MW through the installation of the energy efficient technology. Solartricity applied for energy efficient DSM (EEDSM) funding from State-owned power utility Eskom on behalf of its customer. In terms of its EEDSM programme, Eskom contributes R5,25-million for every calculated megawatt saved towards qualifying heat pump energy efficiency projects.

Eskom’s project evaluation and investment committees have approved a contribution of about 33% of the Modikwa project’s total value from the utility’s EEDSM funding programme.

Kincaid-Smith says that there appears to be broad consensus in the mining sector that heat pumps are the technology of choice for meeting energy efficiency aims in so far as hot water generation is concerned, as the technology is more cost effective and reliable than solar water systems.

Heat Pump Rebate

The company is waiting for the implementation of Eskom’s DSM heat pumps programme. The utility is expected to implement a rebate on April 1 for the installation of heat pump sys- tems to heat geysers for domestic use.

Suppliers of heat pump systems are required by Eskom to claim the rebate to simplify the administration involved, as there are fewer suppliers than installers.

Solartricity markets its heat pumps to industrial, mining and leisure markets, hospitals, as well as to the domestic market. Supply to the domestic market is expected to gain momentum once the rebate programme comes into effect.

One of the challenges faced by Solartricity is the recognition of heat pumps as a vialbe technology in South Africa, as little education about the product has been provided to the consumer.

Solartricity MD says that the technology is not well known in South Africa even though countries in Europe and North America have been using it for underfloor heating and water heating purposes for about 40 years. In 2009, the European heat pumps market reached 526 000 units.

“Heat pumps technology is preferred to solar technology for water heating in Europe. In South Africa, a solar water heating system can be bought for about R35 000, while an equally effective high-quality heat pump system will cost less than R14 000 installed. In terms of Eskom’s heat pumps programme, R3 668 will be awarded for heat pumps fitted to geysers between 100 and 300 and R 4 320 for units fitted to geysers between 300 and 500.

“However, even though the heat pump system is signifi- cantly cheaper than the solar system, South African consumers are still waiting until the rebate comes into effect before buying it, despite the potential power savings that outweigh the discount in the long run,” says Smith.

Heat Pump Technology

Kincaid-Smith explains that the air to water heat pump extracts natural or waste heat from the air by means of an evaporator.

Heat is absorbed from the air using an ecofriendly 407c working gas. The compression of the working gas causes it to liquefy and its temperature to rise. The hot working fluid then flows to a condenser or a heat exchanger where the heat is transferred to the water circulating from the water storage tank. The compressed working fluid then, passing through an expansion valve, returns to a gaseous state and cools, completing the cycle.

The Solartricity heat pump comprises an electronic expansion valve, enabling it to operate more efficiently at high and low altitudes and a dual speed fan to increase airflow into the system at low temperatures.

A 1 kW unit typically replaces a 3 kW or 4 kW electric element and produces about 3,8 kW of rated thermal heat (measured at 7 °C ambient air temperature and 30 °C water temperature), thereby reducing electricity consumption. A heat pump is considered to be between 60% and 70% energy efficient.

Kincaid-Smith says that there is a common misconception that solar water systems are completely energy efficient. Most solar water systems have a backup electric element, which is used to heat water at night and in unfavourable weather conditions. Heat pump systems provide hot water energy efficiently 24 hours a day.

Solartricity’s heat pumps range in size from 2,5 kW to 140 kW to accommodate customers’ particular requirements. The company’s products and manu- facturers adhere to stringent manufacturing quality controls and conform to international and European safety standards, bearing the CE, ETL and ISO 9001:200 rating and GMC certification audited by independent testing and assessment company TÜV Rheinland. The heat pumps are also backed by a nationwide maintenance service.

The product has a life expectancy of more than ten years, depending on, besides other things, the duty cycle of the heat pump concerned, concludes Kincaid-Smith.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn


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