Lifting the lid on heat pump myths

In the first of his columns for elemental and Installer, Graham Hendra explains how he found his heat pump calling.

Hi, I’m Graham Hendra, I currently have two jobs, one as refrigeration lecturer at Eastleigh College on the south coast and the other as technical director for carbon reduction specialist Genous.Earth. Arguably I have a third job as a heat pump enthusiast and advocate, indeed the kids might describe me as a heat pump influencer.

I first met elemental’s Andrew Gaved at Plaza Major, Madrid 15 years ago, where we were on a business jamboree for some long-forgotten air conditioning manufacturer who I must have worked for at the time. We had consumed one or two Sangrias and I seem to remember I was telling the journalists about the glory days of air conditioning before we had health and safety and F-Gas when we could do what we liked with refrigerants – like using it to clean the car tyres. Happy days. Not very clever ones in retrospect.

Andrew was clearly under the influence because he enthusiastically urged me to write a column ‘blending the anecdotes and jokes with something ‘actually useful’. Unbelievably, the next morning I remembered this conversation and so I agreed to write a column. We called it ‘Memoirs of a fridge magnate.’ We thought that was rather good wordplay. The column ran for a couple of years. Some say it was my best work [until now, hopefully, Ed].

Over the years our paths deviated. I quit the big job at the AC manufacturer but got rescued by a gentleman called Neil Afram, who ran a Daikin distributorship – who introduced me to air source heat pumps. This was around 14 years ago… Neil was often in front of the pack.

I got lucky, as I was excited enough about heat pumps to start my own distribution business and back then, it was like shooting fish in a barrel – there was no competition and the market was ours to create. We launched Samsung heat pumps into Europe in 2010. I still have one of those units, I think it was the prototype and is now the oldest Samsung air source heat pump on the planet. It resides alongside some other classics in what I call my Museum of Heat Pumpery, just off the M27. I know some readers really love a heat pump, but the MHP is definitely not worth a visit. I’m not joking. Please don’t come and see me.

Over the next 11 years we sold 10,000 Samsung units. I have a short attention span and so when it got boring, I sold the firm and considered a contented retirement. That lasted three weeks. I wasn’t contented and in fact, I had separation anxiety from the heat pumps, so I went back to work. I decided to write some heat pump books (available from Amazon), I created a heat pump training course and launched a career in self-promotion on Linkedin.

Andrew apparently wanted to capture some of this new-found influence and begged me to write for him again. I agreed, but with just a few conditions: he had to correct my grammar; he had to make sure I sound like I know what I’m doing; and he had to delete the bits that might land me in jail. So here I am. If it’s boring, then you have to blame Andrew, because it was hilarious when I wrote it.

Alongside the books about heat pumps – there’s one coming in time for Christmas, if you want to put it on your Amazon wishlists – I am now providing technical input to a software house, where we do all the maths, design, system selection and other tedious stuff for solar, heat pumps, insulation, and double glazing and the like – literally anything to make homes more energy efficient, cheaper to run and greener. Why? So, installers can get on with the bit they enjoy, strangling the tubes and wiring the kit up.

I love doing the design and the maths – and the tool our team has built does everything for you, including filling in all the forms. I was never any good at the install, largely due to the fact that I couldn’t get anything level. As one of my mentors, Jack Black, said in School of Rock: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach heat pumps.” I’m paraphrasing.

But over the next few columns I’m going to be lifting the lid on a few myths about heat pumps (spoiler alert: they do work, they are not hard to work with, and they are going to replace your gas boiler. Get over it). I look forward to some lively, insightful, and if my Linkedin correspondence is anything to judge by, offensive and ill-informed views from you in return.

And if anyone is still really convinced that heat pumps are not the future, I invite you to give me a call, buy me a drink and I will show you my bank balance.
Mic dropped…
See you next month.