Though heat pumps are not yet widespread, they offer a series of advantages compared with traditional heating solutions.
Few people in Norway had even heard of heat pumps at the beginning of the millennium. By 2019, some 1.4 million units had been sold in the country, figures from the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) show.
Norway’s rapid adoption of heat pumps was spurred by a series of cold winters, an increase in electricity prices, grants and bans on old boilers.
While heat pumps are yet to become widespread around the world, they offer a series of advantages compared with traditional heating solutions.
They are cheap to run and don’t require extensive maintenance. They can also work as a heating and cooling solution at the same time.
Most importantly of all, heat pumps have a very efficient conversion rate of energy to heat – and very low carbon emissions.
“Heat pump technologies are ready to decarbonise residential and commercial buildings as well as industrial processes,” says Thomas Nowak, secretary general of the European Heat Pump Association. “They complement the advantages of district heating and help stabilise the grid – all with European-based technologies”.
Government policies encouraging the adoption of heat pumps in Norway seem to have worked. The country has the highest number of heat pumps per capita in Europe, according to EHPA figures.
Heat pumps have proven popular in other Northern European countries, too. Sweden has 1.9 million, Finland 968,000, Denmark 390,000 and Estonia 179,000, EHPA figures show.
“The lack of gas sources in Nordic countries and policymakers’ lack of options to keep gas artificially cheap brings heat pumps into a direct comparison with electric heating, biomass and district heating,” says Nowak. “And here, heat pumps offer a direct cost advantage.
There is also a higher acceptance level [in Nordic countries] for using electricity as an energy carrier for heating. In Germany, for example, that was not accepted for a long time”.
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