© Breman Installatiefabriek

Heat pumps: The wonders of rooftop heating

Photo­voltaics and solar heating on the roof are normal phenomena. Why not put the heat pump up there, too? In the Nether­lands, this idea solves several prob­lems at once.

The Nether­lands has a space problem. More and more people are looking for afford­able housing, but there are virtu­ally no new construc­tion areas  which is why old devel­op­ments are making room for new build­ings. These build­ings are more modern, better insu­lated, and have energy-saving heating systems. But not more space. So where to put the heat pumps, which have to be placed at prescribed distances from neigh­bors due to strict noise protec­tion regu­la­tions? Where to put the tech­nology or hot water tanks if there is no boiler room or equip­ment room? Cezar de Jong knows the answer to these ques­tions: simply place the heat pump on the roof.

A crazy request

Cezar de Jong works at Breman Installatie­fabriek, a divi­sion within the Breman Group that develops and manu­fac­tures heating equip­ment such as heat pumps. The whole roof project started in 2016. The company was asked to place the outdoor unit of an air-to-water heat pump on a gable roof. Dutch noise regu­la­tions require heat pumps to be placed only at a suffi­cient distance from the house. “We’ve been doing chim­neys for about 30 years putting things on the roof is nothing new for us,” Cezar de Jong says with a laugh. “But designing the outdoor unit of a heat pump for lots of roofs with different slopes was a chal­lenge.” The result was the EQ-Air.

The EQ-Air from the Breman Instal­latiefab­riek, the AxiCool sits on top of the housing. (Graphic | Breman Instal­latiefab­riek)

An extra­or­di­nary deci­sion

The EQ-Air is an air-to-air heat pump. A fan draws in outside air from three sides and sends it past a heat exchanger to the inside, from where it is distrib­uted throughout the building. The condi­tions on the roof, close to the living spaces, gave rise to special require­ments for the fan: “We needed a quiet, durable fan that could with­stand the weather and work for different roof angles. In addi­tion, we didn’t have a lot of time for devel­op­ment, and we also wanted a Euro­pean-­made product.”

That’s how in 2018, Cezar wound up at ebm-papst   with the AxiCool. This EC axial fan was actu­ally designed for heavy-duty use in places such as indus­trial cold stores. This means that it is robust, resilient, and has no problem with even icy weather. It is also very quiet even when running at full throttle. Perfect condi­tions for the job on the roof: “With a diam­eter of 50 centime­ters, AxiCool can process more air volume at a lower speed than with a smaller size, which also mini­mizes noise from the moving air.” The result: The AxiCool runs at a maximum of 55 percent power while emit­ting around 28 deci­bels  that’s quieter than a whisper.

The EQ-Air can also be combined with photo­voltaic systems. With the envis­aged perfor­mance and working hours of the AxiCool, Breman is looking at up to a 30-year warranty. (Photo | Breman Instal­latiefab­riek)

A good idea

Mean­while, supply bottle­necks put a lot of pres­sure on the project partic­i­pants on both sides. Breman had received an order to equip an entire housing devel­op­ment with EQ-Air heat pumps. The delivery date was set and not far away. Open commu­ni­ca­tion was the most impor­tant tool here: “All our contacts at ebm-papst told us honestly what was possible and what was not. We could and had to rely on a yes being a yes and a no being a no. That’s not always what you want to hear,” Cezar says with a laugh, “but essen­tial for good collab­o­ra­tion.”

And that ensured that the delivery date could be met. Now, the Nether­lands has its first housing devel­op­ment powered by rooftop air-to-air heat pumps. Over time, customer confi­dence in the product is also growing: “No one is offering anything compa­rable. This is a disad­van­tage at the begin­ning because poten­tial customers initially prefer what they know. They can’t imagine that a unit directly on the roof won’t make a disturbing noise.”

The heat pumps in the housing devel­op­ment are proving to be very persua­sive and the resi­dents are delighted. Breman is receiving more and more orders. Demand for space-saving, effi­cient heat pumps is growing expo­nen­tially. And shows that a good idea always comes at the right time. 


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Axial fan AxiCool

AxiCool fans for evaporators and cooling units