Since Swegon started developing propane (R290) heat pumps in 2020, it has installed several units in different sizes in Europe, said Alberto Ferrandi, Product Manager for Swegon, in an interview at ISH 2023, held in Frankfurt, Germany, March 13–17.

The units range in size from 20 to 200kW (5.7 to 56.9TR).

Swegon began developing its R290 heat pumps before the proposed revisions to the EU F-gas regulations because the company “felt that for heating, propane was a great solution for its refrigerant characteristics,” said Ferrandi, citing R290’s envelope, efficiency, low pressure and low charge.

The first propane heat pump the company designed was the Bluebox Titan Sky, a combined R290 chiller and heat pump unit containing reversible heat pumps with full inverter reciprocating compressors and plate heat exchangers.

The Titan Sky is available in capacities from 30 to 200kW (8.5 to 56.9TR) and, in chiller mode, provides water temperatures ranging from -15 to 20°C (5 to 68°F). In heat mode, the high outlet water temperature can reach 63°C (145°F) and up to 50°C (122°F) with ambient temperatures as low as -20°C (-4°F).

For light commercial and residential use, the company offers a reversible R290 heat pump with a variable-speed scroll compressor with capacities from 20 to 30kW (5.7 to 8.5TR) in its Bluebox Geyser Sky line. The unit is “an ideal solution to replace boilers,” the company says on its website.

The Geyser Sky produces outlet water temperatures up to 60°C (140°F) with ambient temperatures as low as -20°C (-4°F). The high outlet temperature of the unit is 78°C (172°F).

“Our goal is to provide the biggest range of R290 heat pumps and chillers in the market,” said Frank Schönfelder, Marketing Director for Swegon Germany, adding that is why the company started with such a big range.

“In the future, we will extend the range of our heat pumps as we add new technologies to our R290 portfolio,” said Ferrandi.

Swegon’s focus is to provide a full package for indoor environments, including efficiency controls from the room to the roof, said Ferrandi. “The way in which the heat pump or chiller speaks with the internal units and the AHUs can allow the system to save more energy, providing the best indoor climate at the minimum energy cost,” he added.

“Our approach is to combine the systems and make them as efficient as possible,” Schönfelder said.

Educating for the Future

Having the capacity to build R290 heat pumps is not the only issue Europe is facing, Ferrandi said. “We found out we have to build up educational resources because there is still a big resistance [from] installers and planners to touch a comparably new refrigerant,” he added.

When people hear propane, they are worried about it being explosive. “We need to address the right message and explain to people how to manage the propane,” Ferrandi said, noting the need for webinars, training, and cooperation at construction sites to ensure units are installed properly.

“Propane is a big advantage for the system and for the environment,” he added, speculating that even if the expected ban on f-gases does not happen, the demand for small monobloc propane heat pumps will continue to grow.

Swegon Group AB is owned by Investment AB Latour and offers solutions for ventilation, heating and cooling for indoor environments with connected services and technical support. The company has production facilities in Europe, North America and India.

“In the future, we will extend the range of our heat pumps as we add new technologies to our R290 portfolio.”

Alberto Ferrandi, Product Manager for Swegon