Last week you may have heard a packaged heat pump system malfunctioned in the West Country. There’s subsequently been much speculation about what happened - some of which are verging on libelous.
The technology in heat pumps has been around for a significant time. There are literally millions of air conditioning systems around the world just like this one, with the same refrigerant and the same components inside. We very rarely hear of units exploding, the last case I heard of was a few years ago when a less than savvy engineer working on the unit pressure tested it with oxygen.
My colleagues at Mitsubishi Electric handled the whole situation admirably, recalling the product immediately to resolve the problem. Heat pumps are safe, they have no combustible materials inside and failures are very rare
I note with interest that some of my peers have voiced erroneous claims that the heat pump incident was caused by bad installations and poor quality equipment; I can’t see these allegations being very helpful - let’s wait for a full explanation of what went wrong before starting the mudslinging.
Those of us who work in the field of heat pumps will have to explain to our customers, and our customers’ customers, what happened and assure them that it won’t happen to their system. The more negativity out there like this, the harder our job becomes
Heat pumps are not complicated or hard to install, with a little guidance and training the installation of these systems is no harder than that of a normal fossil fuel boiler. Yes there are some new skills for us all to learn, but these are not comparable with brain surgery. Making heat pumps accessible to installers, and making their lives easier, is key to the success of this industry.
Interestingly, while listening to the BBC national news last night there were two items about accidents occurring with gas installations in peoples’ houses, both cases resulting in death. Not surprisingly nobody is expecting gas boilers, cookers or any other appliances to be banned, replaced or recalled. The gas industry learnt a long time ago that overreaction is not a good strategy their job is to safely sell and install a potentially dangerous gas, and to minimize any risks. We all accept this exchange for warmth and hot food.
With a heat pump system there is no need to have any gas in the house at all, now that’s real risk prevention.
Graham Hendra is a heat pump consultant