Installing Heat Pump under direct sunlight to benefit heating performance?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    NY
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    Installing Heat Pump under direct sunlight to benefit heating performance?

    Are there any studies or empirical evidence (or even guesses here) as to how solar gain at the outdoor coil may affect cold-climate heating performance of an air-to-air heat pump system?

    I'm curious about this since I've noticed that there can be a significant spread between ambient air and surface temperature, simply due to the presence of direct sunlight. As an example, at my home my two heat pump units are located with a northerly exposure in the shadow of my house and never receives direct sunlight during the winter. The indoor thermostats will display outdoor temperature using the outdoor temperature sensor located at/in the heat pump. These readings I assume to be accurate and "as expected" since they read the same (+/- 1F degree), and correspond to the local weather forecast. Separately, I have temperature sensors located on the south-facing side of the house. These sensors are not shaded by structure, shrubs, enclosures or anything and receive direct sunlight as long as the sun is up. During the daytime, these south-facing sensors will read higher than those taken at the heat pumps, and in the wintertime the difference could be quite significant. For example, on a day forecasted to be 33F high, the outdoor temps at the heat pump read about 33F +/- 2, but the sensors under full and constant sunlight read 75 ~ 85F (depending on wind)! These readings are confirmed by two separate sensors, and in the absence of sunlight after normalization every outdoor temp reading overnight is approximately the same.

    In reality it is obvious that the ambient (air) temperature is not so drastically different between sunny and shady sides of the house, but these observations show how solar radiation and solar gain can raise the temperature of a surface (i.e. the temperature probe’s) regardless of ambient temperature surrounding such surface.

    This got me thinking, what if heat pumps were placed in a location that would receive the most direct sunlight to capture and benefit from the not inconsequential heat generated from solar radiation and gain, and thus improving wintertime COP. If the temperature on the fins/coil and any other heat exchange surface of the heat pump can be raised 40~50F above ambient by virtue of direct sunshine, that should seem to make the heat pump operate more efficiently especially in cold-climate regions. Defrost cycles potentially would be unnecessary during daytime. Even in the early evening when the sun is setting, there would seem to be an amount of retained heat in the heat pump’s mass to aid in evening recovery.

    On the contrary, how will such solar radiation and gain affect summertime performance when the heat pump is operating in air conditioning mode? I have noticed that although the temperature sensors in direct sunlight will still read higher in the summer, the spread between those readings and the temps taken at the heat pumps in shade is less, perhaps about 5-15F higher. In other words, the higher the ambient temperature, the lower the spread between surface temp and ambient temp; the lower the ambient temperature, the greater the spread. Thus any detrimental effects of placing the heat pump under direct sunlight for cooling might be less than any potential benefits gained for heating. This consideration may be particularly applicable for installed locations where annual heating demand is greater than cooling demand, timewise and energy-wise.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
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    1,373
    Due to the air movement through the coil, it is not a significant enough difference to use solar exposure in your decision to place equipment. There be no payback for an investment to move the unit into the sun.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Savannah, Ga/H.H. Island, S.C.
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    1,392
    Whatever benefit there may be (if any), will be diminished when operating in air conditioning mode.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    ky
    Posts
    181
    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Ridley View Post
    Whatever benefit there may be (if any), will be diminished when operating in air conditioning mode.
    just asking for clarification.

    In northen hemisphere like here in US and Canada. Sun is in southern sky in winter and Northen sky in the summer.
    Thus Southern end of the house is on sunny side in winter and in shade in the summer.

    How would benefit "if any" diminished ?
    I understand the part where moving the unit is not worth the trouble at all .

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
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    67,597
    6, put a pint of water in 2 small containers and put them in your freezer over night. Then the next day when you see those south exposed sensors registering 80 plus when its 33 outside. Put one of them on that side and the other on the North side. Then see how much faster the South side container thaws. Very little time difference. So very little if any benefit to having the heat pump on the South side.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Savannah, Ga/H.H. Island, S.C.
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    1,392
    The sun rises in the east and sets in west. It is actually due east and due west on the spring and fall equinox. Every other day it is off a little. But I don't think it ever rises in south....no matter the season. That's what I was taught in grade school.

    Z, please explain yourself more.....I'm very confused by your comment.

    If you place you HP condenser in the sun during the winter. Your condenser becomes the evaporator in heat mode. So, in heat mode, the sun will slightly increase the evaporator saturation temp. Thus, gaining just a little bit of efficiency.

    If you place your HP condenser in the sun during summer. Your condenser acts as normal, as a condenser in cooling mode. So, in cooling, the sunlight will slightly increase the condenser saturation pressure. Thus, losing just a little bit of efficiency.

    So, it's a wash.

    Hope I explained so you could understand. It was kinda hard to express my thought process correctly.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    116
    When you consider the huge amount of heat being either rejected or absorbed by the outside unit, any gains or losses are not going to be significant, probably not even noticeable

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