While increasing the adoption of heat pumps is critical to improving residential energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions, there are looming concerns that the US electric grid is not yet ready for all homes to make the transition. With more heating systems shifting away from traditional fossil fuels, the grid might be unable to handle the increased electricity demand during peak hours. While upgrading grid infrastructure is an obvious solution, there are also ways to resolve this issue using demand-side management. Enter Stash Energy, a company founded in New Brunswick, Canada, that has developed a heat pump capable of storing energy while maintaining comfortable home temperatures in cold climates.
The Stash Energy heat pump is a ductless mini-split system that also includes a thermal energy storage system with a built-in smart home and grid-connected thermostat. These smart features allow the heat pump to recognize when the grid’s electrical demand is low and stores energy during ‘off-peak’ hours, when consumers are not using significant amounts of energy. This stored energy is then used during ‘peak’ times, when the energy demand is high and the grid is under significant stress. This method of demand-side load management can help customers save significantly on energy bills by reducing energy consumption when energy prices are high and increasing consumption when prices are low. Stash Energy claims that these technological improvements can lead to monetary savings of up to 29% even when compared to traditional heat pump systems. Additionally, Stash heat pumps also use a proprietary refrigerant which is less harmful to the environment than prevalent alternatives, adding to the environmental benefits of the technology. Currently, Stash has 9 utility projects underway, mostly in the form of pilots across the US and Canada which have yielded promising results so far.
Apart from the economic and environmental benefits, Stash systems can also help create a cleaner and more efficient electric grid. This technology is a great complement to renewable energy generation sources such as offshore wind and solar. Since the energy produced by these technologies is inherently intermittent, there are times when there is a significant surplus of renewable energy that requires storage. Thermal storage technology can be used to capture surplus energy generated from renewable sources and reduce the need for ‘peaker plants,’ which are electricity generation stations that use fossil fuels to meet the energy demand during peak hours. This can be seen in the case of the City of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, which was the first investor in Stash Energy and now generates 50% of its load from wind energy. Stash Energy is paving the way for pairing heat pumps with thermal storage solutions and can hopefully spur other heat pump manufacturers and program administrators to consider this technology.