Enhancing Efficiency in Space Conditioning and Water Heating

GTI is addressing key challenges in bringing new technologies related to high-efficiency space heating and water heating systems. This includes natural gas heat pumps and combined space and water heating systems – and the integration of these systems into homes and commercial buildings.

Project Highlight:

Quantifying potential energy, emissions, and cost savings for heating equipment in a variety of settings with GTI’s Virtual Test Home (VTH) method

To assess the energy savings potential of a suite of efficiency measures targeting low-load homes, GTI developed a novel Virtual Test Home (VTH) method to determine as-installed performance of residential appliances such as emerging low-capacity space and water heating systems and furnaces.

The method integrates multiple test rigs and associated algorithms to simulate real-world conditions in a controlled laboratory environment. It can be used to evaluate gas and electric equipment across a wide range of as-installed conditions. This holistic approach—characterizing performance in the laboratory with the VTH, quantifying savings through modeling, and validating the savings in the field—provides a comprehensive understanding of performance that can be used to assess energy impacts for low-income, single-family, and multifamily housing applications.

Project Highlight:

Bringing low-cost gas-fired heat pump (GHP) technology to high-efficiency homes

Natural gas is the preferred fuel for thermal comfort in North America, and gas heat pumps offer simple efficiencies of more than 100%.

GTI along with various strategic partners like Trane, Rinnai, Stone Mountain Technologies, and others, are developing advanced natural gas heat pump solutions that can be used for space heating, water heating, and combination space and water heating products. These represent next-generation solutions for efficiently using natural gas and achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions.

latest generation gas-fired heat pump water heater (GHPWH) is undergoing testing at different U.S. field test sites, including a major effort in California in collaboration with Southern California Gas and the California Energy Commission. This novel technology can meet Ultra-Low NOx requirements and has a projected Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) that is more than twice that of standard gas water heaters. It offers the lowest operating cost and cost of ownership, with projected 50% energy saving

New Project Highlight:

Advancing thermal heat pump technology towards commercialization

Thermal heat pumps are gaining traction in residential and commercial sectors, with an uptick in various pre-commercial installations. GTI is supporting the development of a family of thermally-driven gas heat pump technologies to lower energy consumption, reduce energy costs, and minimize environmental footprint.

Numerous RD&D activities to verify equipment durability and performance and provide consumers with knowledge and confidence to buy have been undertaken.

A demonstration of whole-house combined space and water heating (combi) system is taking place in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ontario, with one heating season completed. Another GHP combi system field test took place at residences in Tennessee and California. The combi system replaces a home’s furnace and water heater, providing a projected 45% energy savings over the baseline equipment. The DOE is also funding part of this technology development and evaluation effort.

In addition, a hybrid heat pump/boiler system was tested in a Chicago multifamily building, and innovative heat pump prototypes from Europe were experimentally evaluated for potential adaptation for North American markets.

Two significant efforts are underway to bring residential combined space and water heating systems and residential heat pump water heaters to market, in partnership with major manufacturing and innovative technology partners. Pre-commercial pilots, design for manufacturing, and market transformation efforts are driving towards anticipated commercial availability by 2022.

The GTI team is also active in modernizing industry codes and standards, improving the accuracy of building energy modeling tools, and reducing installation barriers through innovative controls and infrastructure solutions.

Review of Research, Development, and Deployment of Gas Heat Pumps in North America

New Project Highlight:

Bringing next-level energy efficiency with heat pump technology

To support next-level energy efficiency, the natural gas industry sponsored development of a gas heat pump roadmap. The comprehensive techno-economic and market study resulted in two new initiatives:

  • A Joint Industry Program (JIP) was created, focusing on delivering high-efficiency, low-cost technology for space conditioning and water heating systems. This Gas Heat Pump Collaborative is initiating market transformation efforts targeting several new gas product categories, including residential and commercial heat pump water heaters, heat pump boilers, and combined space and water heating heat pump systems.
  • In 2020, GTI launched a partnership with several U.S. and Canadian utilities to conduct a large-scale residential gas heat pump water heater (GHPWH) demonstration project while preparing utilities to support the commercialized product through energy efficiency programs. As a collaborative, sponsors will commit varying levels of financial resources to be involved at one of two membership levels: champion sponsor or supporting sponsor. Champion sponsors will host GHPWHs within their service territory as part of the field component of the project. All sponsors will have access to the full results and deliverables of the project. The project will include a range of field, laboratory, and market activities to meet sponsor-prioritized objectives.

Project Highlight:

GTI is conducting several field evaluation projects to assess the benefits of low-capacity natural gas furnaces and electric heat pumps in high-performance homes. This includes an effort at the Rockford Housing Authority in Rockford, IL and at multiple sites in the State of New York, with funding support from NYSERDA.  These demonstration projects of the hybrid space conditioning system will be in retrofit applications in both market-rate and income-eligible homes. Testing results will monitor energy savings over the heating and cooling seasons.

Project Highlight:

Under a grant from the Minnesota Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program, GTI demonstrated emerging condensing rooftop units (RTUs) at two field sites in Minneapolis—a hotel commercial kitchen make-up air unit (MAU), and a conventional RTU installed in a restaurant dining area. Based on the study, condensing heating generated natural gas savings up to 17% compared to standard efficiency (80% thermal efficiency) systems, and both applications resulted in a positive net natural gas cost savings. The results confirm that 100% outside air (OA) applications, such as dedicated outside-air systems (DOAS) and MAUs, are the most promising initial market entry since they provide the long, predictable run times and larger heating loads required to generate net energy savings large enough to pay back the installed cost premium.

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