He can take it easy. The times when he passed on his know-how to heating engineers on a daily basis on behalf of his employer glen dimplex are over. But even in retirement, erich ramming's passion for a very special type of heating has not grown cold. "My whole professional life depends on the heat pump", says the 65-year-old.
Ramming is still one of a generation of engineers who directly accompanied the rise of the heat pump. In 1973, after completing an apprenticeship as an agricultural machinery mechanic at baywa, he began studying supply engineering at the university of applied sciences in munich as a second course of study when the first oil crisis hit. There were car-free sundays, and oil prices rose sharply. "No one knew where the journey was going", ramming remembers.
"We just have to pump them in"
At that time mankind was awakened, the finiteness of fossil energy carriers and the dependence on them became conscious to a broad mass. And ramming also made a decision: "i decided not to focus on combustion technology in my choice of subject."
Instead, he looked into alternatives, including thermal solar energy. He quickly realized that in our latitudes, solar thermal energy can hardly be used for heating. But there was another possibility. "The warm one lies in front of the house. We just have to pump it in."
At that time, the developers remembered a technology that had already been developed in the middle of the 19th century. The heat pump had been used for the first time at the beginning of the twentieth century, but had fallen into oblivion in the meantime.
Like a refrigerator
Warmth is extracted from the air, the earth or groundwater. The way it works is identical to that of a cow cupboard – only in reverse. The refrigerator extracts heat from the food inside and releases it to the outside. The heat pump does this with the world of the eagle.
On the recommendation of his professor of refrigeration and air-conditioning technology, erich ramming came to kulmbach in february 1977 as a freshly graduated supply engineer to work for the company KKW (kulmbacher klimagerate-werk). A home game, because ramming came from the district of kulmbach. He has not left it to this day, lives in mainleus, a few kilometers from kulmbach.
KKW – at that time, 30 percent of the company belonged to the siemens group, which took over all shares one year later – was building night storage heaters at the time, but had already produced the first prototype of a heat pump in 1975 in kulmbach – with the air as the heat source. Ramming's first day with his new employer came at a time when the product had to be made ready for series production.
Oil price plays a decisive role
In the late summer of 1977, the first series products were delivered. The next oil crisis came in 1979. "There were then hundreds of companies that dealt with the subject of heat pumps, everyone who thought they knew how a refrigeration cycle worked, tells ramming.
But as hopeful as the heat pump was when it was launched, it quickly fell into disrepute. "The rough part of these systems didn't work," he says, says ramming. It was not the equipment that was the problem, but "the interaction between the heat source system and the heat utilization system". "The heating engineer didn't know exactly how to integrate the units into the heating circuit."
Up and down
The market collapsed at the end of the 1980s, according to ramming. In 1990, 420 heat pumps were still being sold in germany. Only in switzerland "which always wanted to be self-sufficient", the heat pump remained in demand. In 1990, siemens sold the NPP to the irish glen dimplex group, which still manufactures mainly heat pumps with more than 700 employees in kulmbach today.
An up and down in demand followed. "The market rises and falls with the price of oil", says ramming, who has held various jobs in kulmbach, from developer to product management and sales to training manager. Also at the moment it looks bad. "The consumer fills the oil tank cheaply and postpones alternative purchases."
Hybrid model for the future?
But "one day these low oil prices will be over". And then, in ramming's view, it's time for what he sees as the most promising form of heat pump of the future: a hybrid model of solar and air. When the temperature in the air is higher than in the earth, the air variant is used. If there are higher temperatures in the earth, then the solev variant with earth collectors is the way to go.
"Then only half of the flat area was needed for the ground collectors", says ramming. Since 1996, he has been heating the 360 square meters of living space in his house with the geothermal collectors in his orchard. The ideal heat source, he says. But he is not allowed to build over his garden.