Modeling Assessment of Residential Air-to-Water Heat Pumps Coupled with Cooling Thermal Storage

Conor Dennehy, Stephen Becker, Marc Hoeschele, Alea German

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This study explored the performance and operating cost viability of air-to-water heat pumps (AWHPs) coupled with thermal energy storage (TES) in efficient new residential construction. AWHPs are an emerging technology in this country, but offer promise in terms of high efficiency, fully contained and factory charged outdoor refrigeration system, and hydronic delivery capabilities, which facilitates zoning, ducts in conditioned space, and TES integration for summer load-shifting. Although this AWHP+TES strategy is not yet mainstream, the authors feel that in ten years as decarbonization efforts proceed and TOU rates become more common, strategies such as this will be more accessible. Validated EnergyPlus simulation models were developed based on detailed monitoring data collected over several years at Pacific Gas and Electric's CVRH laboratory test homes located in Stockton, California. One of the CVRH test homes (1,962 ft2 two-story) had been testing various AWHP systems and configurations over the past six years . The validated model was then updated with high efficiency IECC ZERH envelope and component requirements for climate zones 1-5, including ducts in conditioned space thermal distribution. Simulations were completed for the 1,962 ft2 home in each climate zone for a minimum efficiency ASHP, an AWHP coupled with a fan coil, and an AWHP coupled with TES sized to eliminate summer on-peak compressor operation. To maintain consistency in reporting energy use estimates, all cases were run with a similar indoor thermostat control strategy to pre-cool the house below the nominal 76 degrees Fahrenheit set point prior to the on-peak period and float slightly above the set point during the peak period. The AWHP+TES configuration was controlled to alternately condition the indoor space or to charge the TES tanks prior to the beginning of the on-peak. Three composite TOU rates were developed based on existing TOU rates across the U.S. to provide differing economic scenarios to evaluate customer bill impacts throughout the summer. Two of the TOU rates had short three-hour peak periods, while the third rate had a longer seven-hour duration peak period. AWHP modeling projections were based on the observed field performance of the Chiltrix CX34 variable speed unit. Other products on the market or entering the market in the near term would likely perform differently.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages45
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Work performed by Frontier Energy, San Ramon, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-84990

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102023-5871


  • air-to-water heat pumps
  • AWHP
  • Building America
  • buildings
  • cooling thermal storage
  • EnergyPlus
  • load shifting
  • modeled performance
  • thermal energy storage
  • time of use rate


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