A Failed Exchange with SCDC
As part of my Milton News duties I monitor SCDC's new page for news stories which are relevant to Milton. On Friday they ran a story about a big grant they'd received to help them install 18 air source heat pumps and the same number of solar thermal devices on some of their properties.
"Good stuff" I was thinking ... and then I got to their explanation of how a air source heat pump worked. It said:
An air source heat pump works like a back-to-front fridge by drawing in cold air from the outside, warming it, and then pumping it back out.
I was sure that wasn't right so I doubled checked and everyone agreed, they had it entirely the wrong way around: an air source heat pump works by drawing in warm air from the outside, cooling it, and then pumping it back out. You then use the heat energy you've "stolen" from the air outside to either heat the air in the house (so it's effectively running like an air-conditioning unit in reverse) or to warm water as part of the hot water/central heating system. Lots of explanations about this on the Web from the likes of the Energy Savings Trust1 and Wikipedia.
So I made the effort to contact SCDC via their web site using the "Help us improve this page" link at the bottom. I wrote:
You say "An air source heat pump works like a back-to-front fridge by drawing in cold air from the outside, warming it, and then pumping it back out" which is the wrong way around: they work by drawing in *warm* air from the outside, *cooling* it, and then pumping it back out. If you're in any doubt pause to consider *why* one would want to do what you described?!
Today I got a reply from their Communications Manager:
Thank you for contacting us about the news release on our website.
I have discussed your concern with one of our officers who used the fridge analogy to explain how the air source heat pump works. This is an analogy she uses with contractors and they have always been content with it. We are sorry if you do not feel this helped to make it easier for people to understand.
As explained, I have spoken to the officer to discuss your concern and we will reflect to try and find another explanation next time.
So what he's saying, if I understand him correctly, is that their explanation is correct and the only problem is that I don't like it. I would just write this off to me talking to someone who's expertise is "communications" rather than technology but the scary part for me is that the officer who's at the sharp end - the one who it sounds like is the person ordering this kit - clearly doesn't really understand how it works.
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