HEIWA, or how to do carbon-free HVAC!
With today's big issues of global warming and the ecological transition, consumers are having a hard time managing the conflict between their own well-being and that of our planet! HVAC manufacturer HEIWA has taken the eco-responsibility path in choosing to decarbonize its business while getting the customer to consume conscientiously also. We talk with HEIWA France director Franck Beauvarlet.
HEIWA France director
Will this technology pave the way to the design of air conditioners that are 100% green?
Today's air conditioners have come a long way as regards the environment, but the technology is now hitting up against the laws of thermodynamics. Manufacturers can do their bit by using R32 as their refrigerant, which has less carbon than R410. Its climate heating potential is only a third that of R410 and the quantity of fluid can be reduced by 30%. R&D is making big steps in decarbonization but there's never going to be a totally ecological product, that's for certain!
So how can air conditioning, an increasingly essential commodity, tackle the ecological challenges?
Consumers are faced with a dilemma. They yearn for the comfort of air conditioning during heat waves while their conscience tells them it's bad for the planet. The main issue for manufacturers like us is information and education. Many preconceived ideas on air conditioning unit consumptions need defeating. A heat pump produces cooling but above all heating (for ¾ of its use). And modern heat pumps are 2–4 times as efficient as electric radiators, consuming 1kWh for an output of 4 kWh against the classic electric radiator's 1 for 1. And the ancient oil-fired boilers the government wants people to get rid of don't stand up to comparison either. Therefore, the first message to get across is that air conditioning is today's least carbon-intensive heating system.
And in cooling mode?
It's easy to observe. Ever more frequent heat waves. A steep rise in working from home thanks to the pandemic crisis. Both of these point to greater cooling needs. To reduce the consequent energy consumption, users must first learn not to overuse their equipment. They must ensure their homes are properly insulated. They must limit the temperature drop between outdoors and indoors to 7°C; more would be bad for consumption, not to mention the human body. They must take advantage of the cool of the night to air their homes. And last but not least, they must actually know how to use their ACU and its thermostat. Properly used air conditioning doesn't really consume that much: its seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) is 1kWh for 6–8.5 kWh of cooling produced.
Can manufacturers go even further?
Decarbonization initiatives are always possible. At HEIWA, for example, we have worked with the NGO Tree Nation since the end of 2019 to implement carbon offsetting for the transport of all the products and parts we buy and assemble, from the factory all the way to the end customer. Tree Nation helps us calculate the CO2 generated by our transport and determine how many trees we need to plant and where. This year we have already created a HEIWA forest in Nicaragua. And we have just begun the second stage, namely offsetting the carbon generated through use of our air/water heat pumps. This equipment is more expensive, thus warranting a bigger investment. According to Tree Nation's calculations, if we plant 30 trees for every heat pump installed, the carbon is offset for the full lifecycle of the pump. The NGO is a real boon to the conscience of the end customer, whom we invite also to contribute by planting trees. Everybody thus plays their part.
But can you do anything about the type of energy they consume?
Yes, and we're already working on it. We have got together with Urban Solar Energy, a supplier of 100% green electricity. At installation time, we advise our customers to opt for a genuine green energy source. This year, as an introductory gift, we have offered them two years' free summer consumption from Urban Solar Energy for their ACU —the brands can't do everything; customers must also act with conscience.
And what about the installers?
The installers have greeted this initiative really well, especially young installers who are in tune with environmental values and proud to be able to offer an affordable brand in the entry- or mid-range that respects planet Earth. The installers are out in the field; they are our influencers and if we want to make progress, they too must share our awareness.