Menno van der Hoff has dedicated much of his career to furthering the cause of natural refrigerants in HVAC applications. Accelerate Europe sat down with the Person of the Year award winner to find out what makes the Dutchman tick.
Accelerate Europe Person of the Year Menno van der Hoff with his award.
Natural refrigerants have a bright future in HVAC applications in Europe, but policymakers could do more to help them to fulfil their market potential, Menno van der Hoff of Uniechemie told Accelerate Europe in an exclusive interview.
“The move to natural refrigerants isn’t going as fast as I’d like it to,” admits van der Hoff, who won the Accelerate Europe Person of the Year award at September’s ATMOsphere Europe conference in Berlin.
He puts this slow progress down to a fragmented market dominated by non-European manufacturers, and the fact that rising prices of HFCs or HFOs are yet to significantly impact an HVAC market which tends to require only low charges of refrigerant.
Calling for more market accelerators to shake contractors and consultants out of their slumber, he urges governments in particular to put in place the policy ‘carrots and sticks’ that can help stimulate demand for natural refrigerant technologies.
Taxes, for example, help force financially driven end users to take account of the impact of refrigerants on the environment, he says, while government subsidies can help overcome the initial higher costs of ramping up production of new technologies.
“Applying natural refrigerants in HVAC is or soon will be as logical as it is in your fridge at home, at your food manufacturer, or in your supermarket.”
– Menno van der Hoff
Bringing to market the TripleAqua
Van der Hoff was the driving force behind the development of the TripleAqua, an energy-efficient heat pump employing propane (R290).
“TripleAqua is the world’s first heat pump system in its market and size to operate on a natural refrigerant that is able to heat, cool and store in one go,” he enthuses. “It can easily redistribute heating and cooling around the building: the cooling energy of room A becomes the heating energy of room B.”
Van der Hoff is head of R&D and HVAC manager at Uniechemie, a division of Swedish HVAC&R distributor Beijer Ref, which is marketing TripleAqua. According to Beijer Ref, TripleAqua can save up to 50% in heating and cooling costs in commercial buildings (including office buildings, hotels, supermarkets and hospitals) compared to traditional heat pumps, with a COP (coefficient of performance) between 4 and 10.
What’s more, internal storage of both the heat and the cold allows the TripleAqua to meet demand in a passive manner. “This is totally new inside a heat pump. You double the efficiency, as you use the created thermal power twice,” Van der Hoff says.
TripleAqua has the ability to store heat and cold in buffers for later use in the building, providing heating and cooling simultaneously or individually. It uses three rather than the customary four water-loop pipes to distribute heat and cold, and to return water at ambient temperature.
“The internal heat pump design and system concept is new: we have deleted the four-way valve, a common heat pump component,” Van der Hoff explains.
Many would describe Van der Hoff as an inventor, yet the Dutch whizz is self-deprecating. “I do move at the forefront of applying new technologies, but I still see myself mostly as an HVAC engineer,” he says. “My ‘inventions’ are all pretty straightforward.”
The magic, Van der Hoff argues, lies in taking existing components and systems with proven track records and recombining them in a fresh manner to bring them to new areas of application. “To me, that’s full HVAC engineering,” he says.
The full version goes into more detail regarding the TripleAqua, Menno’s career path and personal motivation for working in the HVAC sector, and his views regarding the future of natural refrigerants in HVAC applications, among other topics.