How heat pump technology can help to decarbonise the NHS

St Thomas Hospital Emergency Department NHS
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Jason Speedy, chief operations officer at leading heating solutions manufacturer Groupe Atlantic, outlines the importance of decarbonising the NHS, and how heat pump technology can support its net zero journey

Decarbonising the NHS represents one of the world’s most complex net zero challenges. It will require huge public investment, in-house ambition, and ingenuity from across its supply chain. Transforming its approach to heating and hot water will be a huge part of the puzzle. Heat pump technology will be key for helping organisations like the NHS to make important strides towards meeting net zero.

Temperatures topping 40°C for the first time in British history this summer provide a sobering reminder of the real threat climate change poses, and we are yet to really under- stand how the changes are going to affect us during the winter months in the coming years.

YouGov data finds a third (33%) of people now see the environment as one of the most important issues facing the country, up from 23% before July’s soaring temperatures. And the environment is now perceived as an issue as big as health (38%) in the eyes of the public.

But as an organisation like the NHS will know, the environment and health are not mutually exclusive issues.

Pursuing net zero is crucial to us all. But it is no more important to any organisation than it is to the NHS – given its vested interest in safeguarding public health, and the threat that severe weather events pose to us.

The vast size of the healthcare system, which is estimated to be responsible for 4% of England’s carbon emissions, means its decarbonisation will make a significant contribution towards lowering the country’s overall emissions.

Energy efficiency for cost and carbon savings

The NHS’ ambition to decarbonise is clear. For the emissions it controls directly, it plans to reach net zero by 2040 while achieving an 80% reduction from 2028 to 2032.

Encouragingly we already see a laser like focus on achieving efficiencies, and therefore carbon emission reductions, from NHS estate managers, who have sought improvements in their heating systems in recent years.

Hull Royal Infirmary first installed Ideal Commercial Boilers more than 30 years ago. And since then, we have regularly worked alongside its estates team to find new solutions that will meet the changing requirements of its buildings.

Enter, commercial heat pumps

At Ideal Heating, we have led the way in commercial heating by ensuring our products are at the forefront of technology, delivering both high efficiency and low running costs in line with key market trends and legislation.

Over the next few years, we will see an increasing number of commercial buildings adopting heat pumps. This will be driven by legislation and government funding with building regulations at the heart of change.

To enable this change, we are introducing the ECOMOD commercial air source heat pump range – with six outputs and seven models.

So, what environmental benefits could these heat pumps offer the NHS?

Heat pumps reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heating and hot water. They produce zero local carbon emissions, with heat pump technology typically able to operate 400% more efficiently than traditional boilers in the right conditions.

They effectively produce renewable heat. A heat pump utilises the free energy in the air to heat water. When heat pumps are partnered with a renewable electricity supplier, heat generation is 100% carbon neutral.

Heat pumps take heat from the outside air and transform it into usable heat for our buildings. It starts with the outdoor fan unit, which captures heat from the air using refrigerant. The refrigerant may have an average temperature as low as -60°C. So while to us temperatures like -5°C the middle of winter are really cold, for the refrigerant there is still a lot of heat that it can capture from the air.

Once the energy has been absorbed by the refrigerant, it goes through a compressor, which simply increases the pressure and therefore the temperature in the refrigerant, creating useful heat. The heat is then transferred through a heat exchanger for use in heating and hot water systems of a building.

Once the heat has been transferred, an expansion valve in the heat pump reduces the pressure of the refrigerant, which cools it significantly so it can continue the cycle. This can create incredible efficiencies in the heat pump.

The refrigerant is constantly recycled over the lifetime of the appliance. Our ECOMOD heat pumps use R32 refrigerant, which has a reduced global warming potential (GWP) compared to some alternative refrigerants. R32 refrigerant can also provide higher heating temperatures than alternative refrigerants that are used in other heat pumps.

Greener heating for the future

Heat pump technology is already being used successfully in some healthcare facilities, helping sites to reduce their carbon emissions by more than a third. Heat pumps will be instrumental in helping the NHS to reach its ambitious carbon targets.

At Ideal Heating we recognise there will not be one single technology to enable the NHS to achieve its net zero target – we must consider a diverse range of solutions to decarbonise heat, which is why we have developed an array of heating solutions including heat pumps, heat interface units (HIUs) that transfer heat from heat networks, and 20% hydrogen blend ready boilers.

Experts say that severe weather events are only likely to increase in frequency if we do not act now to reduce our emissions. That will put even more strain on the NHS as more heatwaves, flooding and storms bring more accidents and health risks.

As a key part of its huge supply chain, we are ready with the solutions that will enable the NHS to take a closer step towards decarbonisation – helping the health service to do its part on the road to net zero.

Please Note: This is a Commercial Profile


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