You can generate electrical power at home but you cannot manufacture your own natural gas, oil, or wood. (I exempt the minority of people owning forestry). This is often an argument for the combination of heat pump and photovoltaic generator.
Last year I blogged in detail about economics of solar power and batteries and on typical power consumption and usage patterns – and my obsession with tracking down every sucker for electrical energy. Bottom line: Despite related tinkering with control and my own ‘user behavior’ it is hard to raise self-consumption and self-sufficiency above statistical averages for homes without heat pumps.
In this post I will focus on load profiles and power generation during several selected days to illustrate these points, comparing…
- … electrical power provided by the PV generator (logged at Fronius Symo inverter).
- … input power needed by the heat pump (logged with energy meter connected to our control unit).
- … power balances provided by the smart meter: Power is considered positive when fed into the grid is counted (This meter is installed directly behind the utility’s meter)
A non-modulating, typical brine-water heat pump is always operating at full rated power: We have a 7kW heat pump – 7kW is about the design heat load of the building, as worst case estimate for the coldest day in years. On the coldest day in the last winter the heat pump was on 75% of the time.
Given a typical performance factor of 4 kWh/kWh), the heat pump needs 1/4 of its rated power as input. Thus the PV generator needs to provide about 1-2 kW when the heat pump is on. The rated power of our 18 panels is about 5kW – this is the output under optimum conditions.
Best result near winter solstice
When it is perfectly sunny in winter, the generator can produce enough energy to power the heat pump between 10:00 and 14:00 in the best case.
But such cloudless days are rare, and in the cold and long nights considerable electrical energy is needed, too.
Too much energy in summer
On a perfect summer day hot water could even be heated twice a day by solar power:
These peaks look more impressive than they are compared to the base load: The heat pump needs only 1-2kWh per day compared to 10-11kWh total consumption.
Harvesting energy in spring
On a sunny day in spring the PV output is higher than in summer due to lower ambient temperatures. As we still need space heating energy this energy can also be utilized better:
The heat pump’s input power is similar to the power of a water heater or an electrical stoves. At noon on a perfect day both the heat pump and one appliance could be run on solar power only.
The typical day: Bad timing
On typical days clouds pass and power output changes quickly. This is an example of a day when sunshine and hot water cycle did not overlap much:
At noon the negative peak (power consumption, blue) was about 3,5kW. Obviously craving coffee or tea was stronger than the obsession with energy efficiency. Even the smartest control system would not be able to predict such peaks in both solar radiation and in erratic user behavior. Therefore I am also a bit sceptical when it comes to triggering the heat pump’s heating cycle by a signal from the PV generator, based on current and ‘expected’ sunshine and weather data from internet services (unless you track individual clouds).