Heat Pumps + Solar Air Heating = a compelling combination!

Heat Pumps + Solar Air Heating = a compelling combination!

A prospective customer looking to add to his existing solar air heating capacity recently shared with us this picture.  This is a Canadian home using a non-Arctica solar air heater in combination with a mini-split and solar PV on the roof to achieve his heating goals for the adjacent living space.    

Starting in 2023, mini-splits and central split heat pump systems are coming into Federal and State tax incentives to encourage adoption across the US.  HVAC service providers will no doubt be getting more calls and inquiry about how heat pumps work, how much they cost, and how to access the incentives.

One thing to consider with heat pumps is their level of performance in your climate zone.  A chart for helping to understand a basic heat pump performance is below:


 Image reference.

Heat pumps (as well as conventional AC units - which is just a heat pump without the reversing valve) can produce up to ~4x the heating / cooling energy as electricity they take in, thanks to the magic of the the reverse Carnot cycle and the COP equation.  However, most heat pumps will see a degradation in COP and output as the temperature falls, meaning that supplemental heating is needed to fill the gap.  Such "backup" heating typically comes as resistive heating integrated into the air handler equipment of the heat pump / mini-split, but it can come from other sources as well - such as a wood stove, a hybrid fuel natural gas system, a propane heater, or a solar air heater.

To be fair, low temperature, high efficiency variable speed heat pump systems do exist, such as this Mitsubishi H2i Hyper Heat, but can be expensive and have long lead times.  You should always do your research, consult with a local certified HVAC professional for your geography and climate zone and plan carefully before any upgrade project is undertaken.  

Solar air heaters use the sun exclusively for heat generation, and about 5W of power to run the fan, leading to a peak strong sunlight COP value of about 375 (!).

If your considering using a solar air heater for part of your supplemental heating generation, capacities for our products are listed on the product page for each heater size. 



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