18 May 2017
Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning equipment consumes 43% of the total primary energy consumption in U.S. households. Presently, conventional gas furnaces have maximum heating efficiencies of 98%. Electric air conditioners used in association with the furnace for cooling have a minimum seasonal coefficient of performance (SCOP) of 4.1. A residential gas-fired heat pump (RGHP) was developed and tested under standard rating conditions, resulting in a significant increase in heating efficiency of over 40% versus conventional natural gas furnaces. The associated efficiency of the RGHP in cooling mode is comparable in efficiency to a typical electric air conditioner when compared on a primary energy basis. RGHPs also significantly reduce peak electric use during periods of high demand, especially peak summer loads, as well as peak winter loads in regions with widespread use of electric heating.
The RGHP is similar in nature to a conventional heat pump but with two main differences. First, the primary energy savings are higher, based on a site versus source comparison, as the result of using natural gas to supply shaft power to the compressor rather than an electric motor. Second, waste heat is recovered from the engine to supplement space heating and reduce the energy input. It can also be used to provide supplemental water heating. The system utilizes a programmable logic controller that allows variable-speed operation to achieve improved control to meet building loads.