Annex 65: Heat pumps in a circular economy

Jakob  Thomsen

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Annex 65: Heat pumps in a circular economy

Project start August 2023. Expected completion date December 2026.

For a long time, energy efficiency has been a key selling point for heat pumps. However, with the transition to a more circular economy, an increasing focus on the lifetime of products and the environmental footprint of the materials used in the production phase is expected. This project comprises the Danish participation in the Annex about heat pumps in a circular economy which is a part of the Technology Collaboration Programme for heat pump technologies of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The number of households heated with heat pumps is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, and also in a European perspective, heat pumps are expected to be a key technology in making the European Union independent of natural gas.

Focus on material efficiency
Like most technical installations, heat pumps consist of materials with a significant material footprint. To align this with a circular economy, the products need to be optimized in a lifecycle perspective with a long lifetime and with the possibility for lifetime extension through repairs. The requirements and the associated documentation are expected to increase in the coming years as the carbon thresholds is tightened, and the carbon footprint in the production phase is expected to become a competitive parameter.

This means that companies providing individual heat pumps to the Danish market need to adjust their products to accommodate a future where both energy and material efficiency are important competitive parameters.

The status of heat pumps in relation to a circular economy
Thus, to improve the competitiveness of Danish companies, the Danish heat pump industry needs to have access to a forum where knowledge is collected and shared. And this is the overall objective of this present Annex, which will provide an overview of the status of heat pumps in relation to a circular economy, highlight the technological possibilities for improving the circularity as well as develop best practice recommendations.

In practice, an overview of the terminology for material efficiency must be created as well as a literature study of relevant topics related to the circular economy. The current state-of-the-art for circular economy for domestic heat pumps needs to be defined, and the potentials for circular economy and potential barriers to recycling and dismantling need to be assessed. Finally, best practice tools must be developed to achieve an improved material efficiency in domestic heat pumps, and the results of the work must be communicated to relevant stakeholders.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has appointed Danish Technological Institute as operating agent for the annex which emphasizes the importance and relevance of Danish participation in an international context and provides optimal conditions for effective coordination with the international annex group.

About the project
In this project, which will run for three and a half years, Danish Technological Institute will collaborate with a wide range of partners:

  • Danfoss, Metro Therm, Vølund Varmeteknik, Nilan, and Vaillant.

The project receives funding from EUDP.