© 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 HyBlade 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 HyBlade. This EC axial fan was actu­ally designed for heavy-duty use in places such as trains and rail­roads. This means that it is robust, resilient, and has no problem with perma­nent heat, cold or temper­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions. It is also very quiet even when running flat out, thanks to its blade geom­etry. Perfect condi­tions for the job on the roof: “With a diam­eter of 50 centime­ters, HyBlade 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 HyBlade 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 HyBlade, 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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