Distributed Heat Pumps

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Distributed heat pumps refer to a network of smaller, individual heat pumps installed in buildings or across a district, rather than relying on a single, centralized heating and cooling system. This decentralized approach offers several advantages, including increased efficiency, flexibility, and resilience.

Impact on climate action

Distributed Heat Pumps under the Heat Pumps theme enhance climate action by providing efficient heating and cooling solutions. By utilizing renewable energy sources like electricity, these systems reduce reliance on fossil fuels, decrease carbon emissions, and promote energy efficiency, accelerating the transition to a low-carbon heating and cooling sector.


  • Heat Pumps: Individual heat pumps are installed in each building or zone, providing localized heating and cooling. These can be air-source, water-source, or ground-source heat pumps, depending on the available resources and application.
  • Smart Controls and Communication: Each heat pump is equipped with smart controls and communication capabilities, allowing for individual control and optimization of heating and cooling in each zone.
  • Energy Management Systems (EMS): An EMS can be used to monitor and control the entire network of distributed heat pumps, optimizing energy usage and ensuring grid stability.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: Distributed heat pumps can be integrated with renewable energy sources, such as solar PV or geothermal energy, to further reduce reliance on the grid and lower carbon emissions.
  • Thermal Storage: Thermal storage systems can be incorporated into distributed heat pump networks to store excess heat or cold for later use, improving efficiency and flexibility.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Multi-functional Heat Pumps: Heat pumps are being developed with additional functionalities, such as domestic hot water production and ventilation, to provide a more comprehensive solution for building energy needs.
  • AI-Powered Energy Management: AI and machine learning are being used to optimize the operation of distributed heat pump networks, predicting energy demand and adjusting system parameters to maximize efficiency and comfort.
  • Demand Response Integration: Distributed heat pumps can participate in demand response programs, allowing for flexible energy consumption and grid support.
  • Building-Integrated Heat Pumps: Heat pumps are being integrated into building envelopes, such as walls and roofs, to create more compact and efficient systems.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Smart Building Integration
  • Renewable Energy Synergy
  • Grid Flexibility Solutions
  • Thermal Energy Storage
  • Advanced Control Systems
  • Decentralized Energy Networks
  • Building Envelope Integration
  • Hybrid Heating Solutions
  • Community-Based Heating Initiatives
  • Resilient Heating Infrastructure
  • AI-driven Energy Optimization
  • Modular Heat Pump Solutions
  • Microgrid Integration Strategies
  • Low-Carbon Heating Technologies
  • Heat Pump Retrofitting Solutions
  • Climate-Adaptive Heating Systems

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Dandelion Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Dandelion Energy focuses on providing geothermal heat pump systems for residential heating and cooling. Their systems utilize ground-source heat pump technology to harness stable underground temperatures for efficient heating and cooling of homes. Dandelion’s solutions involve drilling boreholes into the ground and installing heat exchangers to transfer heat between the earth and the home.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Dandelion Energy stands out for its innovative approach to residential heating and cooling using geothermal energy. By leveraging ground-source heat pump technology, they offer homeowners a clean, renewable, and cost-effective alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems. Their streamlined installation process and financing options make geothermal heating accessible to a broader market.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Dandelion Energy primarily serves homeowners and residential developers seeking sustainable and energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions. Their distributed heat pump systems are particularly well-suited for single-family homes, multi-family residences, and small commercial buildings looking to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.
  2. Gradient:
    • Technology Enhancement: Gradient specializes in distributed heat pump solutions for residential and commercial buildings. Their systems utilize air-source heat pump technology to extract heat from the ambient air and transfer it indoors for space heating and hot water production. Gradient’s solutions are designed to be highly efficient, reliable, and easy to install, offering a sustainable alternative to conventional heating systems.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Gradient stands out for its focus on providing scalable and customizable heat pump solutions for a wide range of applications. Their distributed heat pump systems are designed to meet the specific heating and cooling needs of residential and commercial buildings, offering flexibility, comfort, and energy savings. Additionally, Gradient offers advanced monitoring and control features to optimize system performance and efficiency.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Gradient serves homeowners, building owners, and property managers seeking energy-efficient and environmentally friendly heating and cooling solutions. Their distributed heat pump systems are suitable for retrofitting existing buildings or integrating into new construction projects, helping customers reduce energy costs, improve indoor comfort, and lower carbon emissions.
  3. BlocPower:
    • Technology Enhancement: BlocPower specializes in retrofitting buildings with energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, including distributed heat pumps. Their solutions leverage advanced heat pump technology, energy modeling, and financing options to upgrade existing buildings for improved comfort, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency. BlocPower’s approach aims to address energy poverty, reduce carbon emissions, and create green jobs in underserved communities.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: BlocPower stands out for its focus on community-based energy efficiency solutions and its commitment to social and environmental impact. By targeting energy retrofit projects in low-income and minority communities, they aim to address energy inequality and environmental justice issues while driving economic development and job creation. BlocPower’s distributed heat pump projects help improve building performance, reduce energy bills, and enhance quality of life for residents.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: BlocPower primarily serves building owners, affordable housing providers, and community organizations seeking to upgrade and modernize existing buildings. Their distributed heat pump solutions are particularly impactful in underserved communities, where access to affordable and sustainable heating and cooling options is limited. Through partnerships and innovative financing models, BlocPower aims to catalyze energy efficiency improvements and climate resilience in urban neighborhoods.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in pioneering research on Distributed Heat Pumps, focusing on the development and deployment of decentralized heating and cooling systems powered by heat pump technology.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design, optimization, and integration of distributed heat pump systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They explore advanced heat pump architectures, refrigerants, and control strategies to improve energy efficiency, reliability, and comfort while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and operating costs.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in space heating, water heating, and air conditioning. By promoting the adoption of distributed heat pumps, UC Berkeley’s research contributes to decarbonizing the building sector, enhancing energy resilience, and mitigating the urban heat island effect in communities.
  2. Technical University of Denmark (DTU):
    • Research Focus: DTU conducts innovative research on Distributed Heat Pumps, leveraging its expertise in thermal engineering, system modeling, and renewable energy integration to advance the development and deployment of decentralized heating and cooling solutions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the design and optimization of distributed heat pump systems for diverse climates, building types, and energy demand profiles. They investigate novel heat pump technologies, heat exchanger designs, and thermal storage solutions to enhance system performance, flexibility, and grid integration.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in district heating networks, energy-efficient buildings, and industrial processes. By advancing distributed heat pump technology, DTU’s research supports the transition to low-carbon heating and cooling solutions, improves energy affordability, and strengthens energy security in communities.
  3. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL is at the forefront of research on Distributed Heat Pumps, focusing on technology innovation, performance validation, and market transformation to accelerate the deployment of distributed heating and cooling systems across the United States.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses laboratory testing, field demonstrations, and techno-economic analysis of distributed heat pump technologies. They collaborate with industry partners, utilities, and policymakers to develop standards, codes, and best practices for integrating heat pumps into buildings and communities.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in residential retrofits, new construction projects, and community-scale energy systems. By providing technical expertise and policy support, NREL’s research facilitates the widespread adoption of distributed heat pumps, reduces fossil fuel consumption, and advances the transition to a clean and sustainable energy future.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Distributed heat pump systems are being implemented in various residential, commercial, and industrial settings around the world. For example, several cities in Europe are implementing district heating systems that utilize distributed heat pumps to provide efficient and sustainable heating to buildings.