Heat pumps are the key
Over the last few decades, demand for domestic cooling in the UK has been relatively small. The main reason for this is that over the years summer temperatures in the UK have been mild, with the weather not getting hot enough for long enough to warrant homeowners considering air conditioning as an essential component for their home.
Another major obstacle that has restricted growth in the domestic air conditioning market is that when consumers are looking at the internal comfort of their home, their first priority is warmth. Traditionally, this has meant installing a fossil fuel boiler to provide a home’s heating as there have been few alternatives on the market.
However, with energy prices continuing to be volatile and the UK’s increasing dependence on imported oil and gas, it is now more important than ever to look at reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and consider alternative solutions for the home.
A viable solution
One such technology that offers a viable solution for the future is heat pump technology. With a number of key benefits, including energy efficiencies of up to five times more than a fossil fuel boiler, heat pumps should be a key consideration for homeowners.
The good news is that heat pumps have been used in air conditioning systems for many years. However, one of the main issues has been a lack of awareness amongst homeowners about the benefits of this technology, along with an overall perception that air conditioning is only about cooling.
Perceptions though are starting to change. Homeowners are beginning to appreciate that an air conditioning system, through the benefits of heat pump technology, can do more than just cool; it’s about all year round climate control. One of main advantages is that it eliminates the need for separate heating and cooling systems, controlling both actions from a single integrated unit.
It is the industry’s job now to continue to dispel the myths about air conditioning to help educate homeowners about the options available to them. In the last few years, considerable investment has been made by manufacturers to bring new technologies to the marketplace, putting heat pump installers in an excellent position to help their customers make a more informed choice.
One such investment that Daikin UK has made is introducing Ururu Sarara, a heat pump based split air conditioning system. Ururu Sarara (Japanese for humidifying and dehumidifying), is capable of humidifying and dehumidifying a home without the need of an external water source, Ururu Sarara comprises an indoor and outdoor unit and is available in three sizes with nominal capacities of 2.8, 4.2 and 5.0kW. All the units in the range have an ‘A’ class Energy Label rating, amongst the highest in the UK market and include a host of innovative features that offer homeowners complete control of the temperature, humidity and ventilation of their immediate environment all year round.
Correct humidity levels play a major role towards achieving internal room comfort conditions. A relative humidity (RH) of 50% at a temperature of 22ºC enables the occupants to feel warm, whereas an RH of 20% at 28ºC can leave the occupants feeling chilled. In addition, the correct level of humidity not only improves room comfort, but can also prevent dry skin and sore throats.
Humidification is achieved during the heating mode via a built-in element on the outdoor unit, which extracts moisture from the surrounding air without any need for an external water source. After its transfer to the indoor unit, the humidified air is discharged evenly throughout the room space, thereby avoiding air stagnation at ceiling and dryness at floor levels.
In as much as humidification has beneficial effects on comfort levels, so does dehumidification. During the summer months a high degree of ambient air humidity, even at moderate temperatures, can make a room feel hot and stuffy.
Ururu Sarara however reduces indoor humidity without affecting the room temperature. This is achieved by mixing dry cool air with warm air to produce comfortable dry air (reheating dehumidifying), by using an innovative split indoor coil arrangement, avoiding the need for electric reheating. This feature prevents overcooling and will be appreciated particularly by individuals sensitive to cooler temperatures. If the indoor temperature becomes too high, Ururu Sarara reduces the humidity level by also reducing the temperature (cooling dehumidifying).
Ururu Sarara is unique among residential air conditioning units in that it enables a 26m2 room to be ventilated with fresh air in less than two hours without the need for windows to be opened. Furthermore, the incoming air temperature is adjusted to the required level, avoiding any heat losses. Ventilation can also be initiated while the occupants are away from the house and, since the supply fan is located on the outdoor unit, the ventilation process is silent.
Incoming outdoor air is purified in two stages – initially in the outdoor unit and then in the indoor unit. Exhaust gases and unpleasant odours are decomposed and removed from the outdoor air before it passes to the indoor unit where it is filtered of dust and pollen and purified further in a photocatalytic filter. Finally, it is subjected to treatment in the ‘Flash Streamer’ – patented by Daikin and incorporated in its latest air purifiers – which breaks down any remaining formaldehyde, viruses and moulds for example.
Ururu Sarara also has a number of other user friendly features. Its ‘moisturising operation mode’ creates a particularly skin friendly environment by combining a high RH, a comfortable airflow pattern, and the emission of vitamins and hyaluronic acid. A ‘breeze cooling airflow’ function enables a room to feel cool, even at relatively high temperature settings by varying the airflow direction to simulate the effect of a pleasantly cool breeze. Also, comfort during sleep is increased by the ‘comfort sleep’ mode, which adapts room temperature to match night time fluctuations in bodily temperature. This is achieved by lowering the room temperature by 2ºC over a three hour period and then slowly returning it to the original setting one hour before wake up time. The three hour drop in temperature also prevents undesirable mould formation in the room – an industry first feature known as the ‘mould shock’ function.
To maximise use comfort, Ururu Sarara is controlled via an easy to read and use hand held remote controller. This displays room humidity and temperature levels in all system operating modes and functions via a simple push button operation.
It’s fair to say that in previous years air conditioning manufacturers have concentrated their investment in the lucrative commercial and industrial markets. However, as we move forward, renewable technologies will continue to grow in popularity as the Government puts pressure on the UK to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. It is therefore vitally important that manufacturers continue to invest in innovative new products for the domestic market so the industry can take full advantage of the opportunities heat pump technology can bring.