Is it Possible to Direct Solar-Heated Air to the Condenser of a Heat Pump?

Would there be any problem with using a solar air collector or green house to pre-heat the airstream that feeds the standard heat pump condensing unit? Wouldn’t this keep it running at very high COP’s? – Tom B., Seattle, WA

According to Dr. Tom Henkel, you should look at: Kreider and Kreith “Solar Energy Handbook” discusses solar-assisted heat pumps on pp 13-19 to 13-20), and Donld Rapp’s “Solar Energy” devotes a full chapter (9) to this topic.

These references point out that such solar assist systems significantly raise the heating COP. So, the answer to the question is YES, it’s possible to direct solar-heated air to the condenser of a heat pump and raise the heating COP.

But Henkel says, “What may be difficult is engineering a workable system”. While I always support innovative solutions, I want to emphasize that it is always safer to buy existing solar thermal systems whether they are for water heating, hydronic or air space heating systems, or augmenting absorption cooling systems for larger buildings.

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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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