30 May 2005

HEAT PUMPS—WHO USES THEM AND WHY?


Heat pumps have been applied in industry and as building space-conditioning systems since the latter
part of the 19th century. Today, more than 130 million heat pumps are installed worldwide with more
than 15 million new heat pump systems installed each year. Attributes of this technology include energy
savings, environmental benefits and the opportunity to provide a self-contained complete heating and
cooling system for residential and commercial buildings. This paper reviews the historical development
of heat pump applications and, through this historical overview, attempts to answer the question: “who
uses heat pumps and why?” The question is timely as construction of new buildings and industrial
processes continues to grow worldwide, requiring increasing quantities of energy. Comments on the
future prospects of heat pumps and on impediments and opportunities for market growth are offered.