23.09.2016  –  The prejudices I had against heat pumps

Heat pumps? Skilled tradesman Achim Brink had reservations: he thought they were too loud, too unusual and didn't they only work with underfloor heating? But nonetheless curiosity made him test the "magic white box" in his own home ...

Prejudices I had against heat pumps

Hille / Oberlübbe - a 4,000 strong town in East Westphalia. The access road meanders lazily along Wiehengebirge. Thick white mist winds past the bare trees. This is Achim Brink's home.

It is murky today. The 47-year-old sitting at his desk looks outside. Since 1984 he has installed heaters as a family business. The heat was generated by pellets and gas. But heat pumps? No, they were not on his radar. But then in 2002,  "A colleague told me about heat pumps," he recalls, "I wasn't jumping on any bandwagon." He grins.

The colleague calls heat pumps the "heating of the future". Brink is curious. Heat pumps seem complicated. Brink needs more detailed information. How enthusiastic are customers for "the white magic box"? A brochure he is given to read is not enough. Brink is a trademark in Hille / Oberlübbe; he stands for expertise and quality. He is not about to play on his customer's trust by experimenting in their homes. Not at any price.


"We live in the countryside, everyone knows everyone. I have an older clientele with even older oil-fired boilers - skepticism ... This new technique looked complex, precise planning was required."


What would that mean for Brink? On site training, research and study - an  investment in time. Is the heat pump market worth this investment? Or is all this wasted time? "My clients know me, so I was not going to do a bodge job," he says. He had a reputation to lose. If he was going to try this, he had to be 100% behind it.

Brink is curious. Brink conducts a test.

Brink decided to conduct a test. Pilot project WPL 33 started in 2004. The guinea pig: his own home. In 35 hours he cleared out the boiler room and laid pipes. He got ready and turned it on. The air source heat pump worked. Without problems. "This little box to get my house warm on its own? Never!," were his first thoughts. So at first he kept his existing oil boiler running in tandem. Brink was cautious. That was now 10 years ago.


"The combination of heat pump and oil was completly unnecessary," he says today. But at that time he found it hard to trust in the new technology. "Now, I can guarantee that I will never in my life need to buy more oil for heating."  

Testing the worst case scenario

Change of location. A relaxed is Brink outside under his bedroom window and leaning onto his WPL 33. The air source heat pump is in the heart of the flower bed and blows against the house wall. "I  installed it really badly," he says -  a bit of pride in his voice.


"I wanted to try the worst case in this test series. Actually, the vent of the heat pump must ALWAYS be away from home, so the house wall does not reflect the sound. And I would never site a customer's heat pump under a bedroom window." But in his own home it has been running there for 10 years. And Brink sleeps like a baby. He decsribes the sound as, " Much like the hum of a refrigerator. And the new units are much quieter."  His neighbor lives only 5 meters away. Can he sleep undisturbed with the heat pump there? "Sure," says Brink and trudges self-consciously across the neighboring lawn. Five steps, knock once.

Low cost, clean air

Frederik Westerhoff is sitting with a cup of coffee in his conservatory, smoking a cigarette with relish. The men shake hands happily. The surprise visit is welcome. "We still drink a beer together, despite heat pump project," says Brink, "right?"


"Or just because" quips Westerhoff. His sleep has never been disturbed. Indeed, the 65-year-old retiree has been a heat pump fan himself for the last five years. His neighbor led the way - half the road now swears by STIEBEL ELTRON heat pumps.


An old oil boiler had to go, and the WPL 13 replaced it. "We have no more air pollution", he says, "when the east wind blew the entire basement used to smell of oil. Those days are gone."


An oil boiler burns oil. A STIEBEL ELTRON heat pump heats without burning anything - and does not release CO2. It is not a boiler. You need power, but it uses mainly renewable energy, in the case of Westerhoff, from the air. 75 percent of the heating energy is free environmental energy; only a small amount of electricity is needed as drive energy. Just one more reason to switch, find Brink's neighbors.


It's deliciously warm in the conservatory. The fog outside thins out slowly. Cosiness. What's next for Brink? He shakes hands and closes the door behind him as he leaves. New customers and new projects are waiting for him to turn Germany a bit greener.