July 2016 – Ground Breaking Technology, The Thermolift Heat Pump

Now that summer is here, office buildings and homes are running their air conditioners. Everyone knows the increased cost and environmental impact associated with A/C. However, there is one company on Long Island planning to change the way people heat and cool their homes and revolutionize the home heating industry. Thermolift is a company started in 2012 that is producing a natural gas driven air conditioner and heat pump that will replace 3 systems: heating, cooling and hot-water systems with one system. Omnicon had the opportunity to interview CEO and Co-Founder of Thermolift, Paul Schwartz, along with The Omnicon Group’s Software Technical Lead, Kevin Ramkishun to gain insight on this cutting edge technology that is being developed. 

What makes the Thermolift Heat Pump different then current technology? Paul Schwartz: “Thermolift is a TC (Thermal Compression) cycle system that can heat and cool at the same time using natural gas not electricity. So we call ourselves a natural gas air conditioner and heating pump.” 

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How will it revolutionize the home heating industry? PS: “60-70% of homes in the United States are connected to natural gas or propane bottle mix gas. The maximum efficiency state of the art heating systems can achieve with traditional condensing boilers and furnace equipment is about 96%. We can improve on that by around 30-50%. Of course you can only get 100% efficiency but we use fuel to create heat to drive the system and it allows us to pump heat from the outside. When we burn 1 unit of heat it produces 1.65 units of energy total into the system because we are attracting that additional heat from the environment, even in cold climate systems. That would be the equivalent of 150-165% efficiency with the combination of both sources. The term of efficiency is called COP – coefficient of performance. Another benefit of our system is when you’re using it in the summer time to cool your house the byproduct is hot water. So during the summer time you don’t have to pay for hot water.” 

How is the pump environmentally friendly? PS: “Only 35% of the energy that goes into making electricity is delivered to the building, much of these losses are from the distribution grid. So, by burning the fuel directly in the building, we don’t have all those distribution losses and we reduce the carbon footprint by 30%. In addition to reducing the carbon footprint, we also are able to use less natural gas to heat the same area by 30-50% less gas.” 

Can you talk more about the working relationship between The Omnicon Group and Thermolift? PS: “Thermolift uses experts from around the world and that’s how we found Omnicon. They came recommended from the Dean at Stony Brook University. The advantage working with Omnicon is the fast response time, high level of quality communication, problem solving capabilities, and broad expertise. That has driven a relationship in a very short period of time towards a solution.”

Thermolift Heat Pump

How is Omnicon assisting Thermolift with the 2.0 prototype? Kevin Ramkishun: “Thermolift’s mechanical design requires precise motion control electronics. Omnicon is aiding Thermolift’s design team in the development of an electronic controller for their heat pump. A control strategy is being developed and modeled, and software is developed based on the model. Where possible, Omnicon is also assisting with improving the design of the electronic hardware of the controller and improving the hardware and software interfaces to allow for higher performance and accuracy. The tasks include developing a model in MATLAB/Simulink, developing and iterating control strategies, implementing the control laws in software, and testing on a test stand and on the real Thermolift heat pump. This work bridges many disciplines including mechanical engineering, electronics, software and control theory. It is an iterative process in which we gather data from running the machine, analyze the data and metrics to identify further improvements that can be made, and then implement those improvements to once again run the machine.” 

What technology issues has Omnicon solved? KR: “Some of the primary considerations in the Thermolift heat pump technology are cycle time (how long it takes the displacers to move from end to end) and landing velocity (how fast the displacers are moving when they reach the end). The cycle time directly impacts the efficiency of the heat pump, and a soft landing approach is desired to reduce the acoustic noise generated by the pump during operation because the pump is designed for residential use. The two metrics compete, however, and smart tradeoffs must be made to balance the two. Omnicon’s control strategy has a fast cycle/soft landing approach as its primary design goal. Also related is power efficiency, which the Omnicon control system seeks to minimize by allowing the thermodynamic and mechanical aspects of the design to do most of the work, rather than the electronics.” 

What do you like most about working on this program and/or working with Thermolift? KR: “It is always exciting to work on groundbreaking technology. Thermolift’s technology is pushing the limits of what has ever been achieved, and can drastically change the landscape of the heating and cooling industry. To do that, the design of the electronic control system is complex and poses many engineering challenges. It is a very interesting problem that combines many engineering disciplines. Since this is new technology, a lot of creativity can be applied. We have a great dynamic with the Thermolift engineering team that allows us to implement improvements and test on the prototype machine in as little as a day. Their team consists of experts in the fields of mechatronics, thermodynamics, and mechanical engineering, and we have learned a lot from them. Thermolift has also supplied us with a test stand, so it is very easy to try out a new concept or idea to determine whether it is feasible. There is a clear path to the market for this technology and we are happy to be a part of the team that gets it there.” 

Both Omnicon and Thermolift are excited for what the future holds for this ground breaking and innovative technology. To find out more about the Thermolift heat pump or Paul Schwartz visit their website: Thermolift

Tags: partnership, product development, technology

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