The heat that keeps the world a little cooler

The heat pump is deemed to be the key component for sustainable energy systems of the future. Why? – Karl Ochsner, the managing partner of Ochsner Wärmepumpen GmbH, has the answers.

The decarbonization of our energy supply can only be achieved if our buildings are heated and cooled more sustainably. Ochsner Wärmepumpen GmbH produces the technology required for this. The SME has asserted itself to date with innovative heating and cooling solutions in a competitive market – thanks in part to a smart control unit that was developed in cooperation with Siemens.

What do fresh air, city drainage, and energy-intensive industrial processes have in common? – Those who have never asked themselves how buildings, production sites and urban districts can be heated without oil and gas may be at a loss and just shrug their shoulders. This does not apply to Karl Ochsner, the Managing Partner of Ochsner Wärmepumpen GmbH, which is located in Linz, Austria. He is actually the fifth generation to run this family business: founded in 1872 as a coppersmith, the company has exclusively been producing heat pumps since 1992.

 

Karl Ochsner knows practically everything about building heating and cooling systems that work without fossil fuels. The systems that are developed, produced, commissioned, and serviced by his approximately 220 employees, are able to withdraw energy from their surroundings to generate heat or cold. In order for this to work, they need power. A building that is heated with a modern heat pump, draws, on average, about 75 per cent of power from its surroundings. The rest comes from the electrical socket.

No energy revolution without a change in heating. And no change in heating without heat pumps.
Karl Ochsner, Managing Partner of Ochsner Wärmepumpen GmbH 

From a niche product to key technology

When Karl Ochsner Senior, father of the current Managing Partner, started with the production of heat pumps in 1978, the technology was mainly used to run small hot water storage units in family homes – but heating generally continued with wood, oil, or gas. “Initially, this was just a sideline for my father,” Karl Ochsner says. “Even at international trade fairs with thousands of exhibitors, he was often the only one presenting heat pumps in those days.”

 

A lot has happened since: awareness of climate-related challenges the world is faced with, has grown continually – and with it, the demand for heat pumps. And for good reason. After all, about 40 per cent of global CO2 emissions can be accredited to buildings – significantly caused by heating and cooling. If more buildings were operated efficiently and sustainably, their ecological footprint would be reduced enormously. This requires alternative heating systems – such as heat pumps. Karl Ochsner puts it in a nutshell: “No energy revolution without a change in heating. And no change in heating without heat pumps.”

 

As a matter of fact, the heat pump is deemed to be the key component for sustainable energy systems of the future. In combination with power from renewable sources in particular, it can maximize its effectiveness. If it is powered with electricity from a photovoltaic system on the roof, emission-free operation is possible. Interacting with grid edge technology, it is able to contribute to a balance in the power grid because it stores energy in the form of heat, thus flexibly adapting to the electricity supply. “The heat pump can run when there is power. When power is expensive or in short supply, it simply turns off – without any kind of loss in comfort,” Karl Ochsner says. 

Massive technological advances

All this is possible nowadays because technology has been constantly further developed over the years. The Ochsner company has significantly contributed to this progress – and is continuing to do so. “Without innovation, we would no longer exist,” Karl Ochsner says. The company has succeeded in enormously increasing the efficiency of air/water heat pumps. These systems use ambient air as a heat source. “Ground-source heat pumps were the benchmark for everything for a long time. Today, air/water heat pumps don’t just keep up, but, under favorable conditions, are even more efficient over the course of a year.“

Developments in large facilities are even more significant in terms of sustainable energy supply. “We’re talking about power up to 2.5 megawatts,” Karl Ochsner says. “Modern systems reach process temperatures of 130 degrees. You could only imagine something like that in the past.” This means that the applications for heat pumps have significantly increased: “Today, our heat pumps heat and cool airports, shopping centers, and skyscrapers,” Karl Ochsner says.

Urban waste water has huge potential. We only have to use it.
Karl Ochsner

However, a lot of potential still lies idle at the moment: the use of heat pumps is particularly interesting where waste heat occurs – for example during industrial processes. “This energy just evaporates in a lot of places without being used,” Karl Ochsner says. With a heat pump, it could be recovered, and used for heating, warm water generation, or the system’s processes. “Urban waste water also has huge potential. We only have to use it.” 

Performance alone is not enough

In order to be successful in the market, it’s not enough to focus solely on the efficiency of products. Who would know this better than the Managing Partner of an SME that has asserted itself against big corporations for decades. The whole package has to be right for the customer. That’s why Ochsner builds air/water heat pumps that are not only efficient but also among the quietest available. That’s why the company uses coolants that allow for ideal operation, are environmentally friendly, and offer maximum safety. Furthermore, Ochsner has started to focus on the user friendliness of its heat pumps in the last few years.

 

When it comes to system control in particular, customers have become much more discerning. “These days, users want to control their systems using a smartphone,” Karl Ochsner says. To make that possible, his company developed a new control unit for its heat pumps that can be operated via the cloud. It partnered with Siemens that brought a lot of digital knowledge to the equation. The Climatix control units by Siemens – in combination with the Climatix IC cloud solution – offered an ideal starting point for the new development. 

There’s no point to the coolest app if the customer feels cold.
Karl Ochsner

The result of this cooperation is a solution that fully leverages the potential of the cloud: customers can now operate their heat pumps from anywhere using an app. Ochsner’s employees are also benefiting from the new control unit: they can provide their customers’ systems with updates from the control center via the cloud and remotely optimize operations, or resolve errors. “Thanks to remote servicing, we are able to solve problems before the customer notices them,” Karl Ochsner says. That saves the customer trouble, and the company time and unnecessary truck rolls.

Long-term partnership of equals

The partnership with Siemens was perfect for Ochsner in various ways. “We were looking for a technology partner whose solutions would work for 20 years and more,” Karl Ochsner says. “There’s no point to the coolest app if the customer feels cold.” And this doesn’t just concern private customers. Ochsner equipment can also be found in hospitals and data centers. “Those are critical infrastructures that have to work – we can’t afford to experiment with a control unit there.” That’s why product security has top priority for Ochsner.

When we talk about the cloud, we also always talk about IT security. And that’s where we have utmost trust in Siemens.
Karl Ochsner

“When we talk about the cloud, we also always talk about IT security. And that’s where we have utmost trust in Siemens,” Karl Ochsner says. After all, Siemens guarantees not only support for the entire life cycle of the control unit but also for the security of the cloud solution. This allows Ochsner to concentrate on its core business – cooling technology and its control – without cloud connectivity compromises.

 

In this way, both partners can leverage their strengths to further develop a technology that contributes to a more sustainable energy future. Karl Ochsner is convinced: “Economy and industry have to grow in balance with nature.” “Together, we are showing that this is possible – thus assuming our responsibility toward society.”

08/20/2020

Picture credits: Ochsner Wärmepumpen GmbH

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