Getting Pumped about a New Low Carbon Heat System

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Richard Howarth
2 minutes

ICAX is commercialising a new type of air source heat pump for residential buildings to be manufactured in the UK.

The start-up, founded by Mark Hewitt, Andy Ford and Edward Thompson, plans to take its heat pump to market in 2021.

Delivering a market-ready system has involved detailed design of the product for manufacture as well as the development of user-friendly app-based software controls for the heat pump.

Domestic heat is one of the hardest parts of the carbon budget to deal with. Around 85% of all homes in the UK heated by natural gas. ICAX believes its technology will help the UK transition away from gas and help deliver on the Climate Change Committee’s stated target of installing six million heat pumps by 2035 to help the UK decarbonise.

Transitioning from gas to cleaner heating for homes requires overcoming both technical and non-technical barriers to low carbon heat.

Consumers want a heating system that not only gives them heating and hot water on demand, but is also as invisible to them as their current gas boiler system. Any commercially successful product has to have high performance, with simple controls, that operates quietly in the background. Existing products meet some but not all of the criteria customers require to drive heat pumps at scale.  

ICAX has collaborated with LSBU to address many of these issues during its system’s development, while also exploring ways to decrease the lifecycle costs.  

In addition to developing, testing and refining the system ahead of prototype manufacture, ICAX is carrying out laboratory testing, at a unique jointly developed facility at LSBU and is also carrying out field testing on live house demonstrators.

Designing a quiet heat pump has been a key challenge, requiring experimental work with different shapes, materials and sizes. ICAX has found links with staff at LSBU really useful in terms of offering interesting inputs and new perspectives on the work the start-up is undertaking as well as valuable input into the wider context of the UK energy landscape into which the product fits.

Facilities LSBU has provided to help ICAX text and refine its heat pump include an environmental chamber and acoustics chamber, along with academic support to help the company maximise the benefits of using these facilities.

LSBU academics really enjoyed working with ICAX, describing it as a highly creative business “working at the fore of a dynamic and competitive field”.

LSBU has a long history in the UK built environment, and a world leading reputation in building services engineering.  

Much of this reputation stems from LSBU’s teaching of UK building professionals, but the university’s applied research is beginning to gain recognition in its own right. The collaboration with ICAX, and the experience and knowledge gained through this and other projects, will place LSBU at the heart of the UK’s national conversation about the heat transition and create high impact applied research, for developing and implementing low-carbon heat solutions across the UK.