A new type of heat pump being developed at Purdue University could allow residents in cold climates to cut their heating bills in half.

Heat pumps provide heating in winter and cooling in summer but are not efficient in extreme cold climates.

“With this technology, we can maintain the efficiency of the heat pump even when it gets pretty cold outside,” said Eckhard Groll, a professor of mechanical engineering who is working on the project.

The innovation aims to improve efficiency in general but is especially practical for boosting performance in cold climates. The new heat pumps might be half as expensive to operate as heating technologies now used in cold regions where natural gas is unavailable and residents rely on electric heaters and liquid propane.

“We’ll be able to extend the geographical range where heat pumps can apply,” said W. Travis Horton, an assistant professor of civil engineering. “So this could open up a whole new market.”

Researchers expect to complete a prototype by the end of the three-year, $1.3 million project.

The new technology works by modifying the conventional vapor-compression cycle behind standard air conditioning and refrigeration.

“This could be a relatively simple modification to existing heat pumps, refrigeration and air conditioning systems,” said James Braun, a professor of mechanical engineering.

For more information on the Purdue heat pump project, visit www.purdue.edu.