Karl Ochsner was destined to be a leader in the heat pump industry. After all, he’s descended from a long line of Austrian industrialists, and father is a pioneer of heat pump technology and author of the most influential book on heat pump design and installation.
There was always a place for Karl in the kingdom of heat pumps. “I was really born into it. Even from my childhood, I was exposed to this technology,” he says.
But Karl’s path to the throne was circuitous. After studying finance and marketing, he took a job in Germany as a general manager for the American technology company Xerox. His eight years there, he says, were the perfect training ground for him to bring Ochsner Heat Pumps to new heights when he eventually joined the company in 2008.
“I’m now definitely benefiting from my time at Xerox because I got to train for so many years at a classical American corporation. This helped me a lot in developing my company to bigger sizes and new levels,” Karl says.
This training was especially crucial in Karl’s tumultuous early days as CEO – a time when business leaders around the world we're fighting to keep their companies afloat in the wake of the global financial crisis.
“People didn’t have the money to build houses, so construction dropped dramatically, and of course, if there are no new houses, there is no need for heating systems. Our revenue declined by more than 30% from one year to the next. This was a huge challenge,” Karl recalls.
“But like many companies, we used the time to get slimmer, to sharpen our processes, to get more efficient. So we are one of the companies who really came out of the financial crisis stronger than before.”
Leading the company through its most trying period was the test Karl needed to prove his worth, and demonstrate that heat pumps are more than just an inheritance – they’re a passion.
“I had a good career outside Ochsner, but at the end of the day, I was the one who had to decide to continue the history and the tradition of the family business. That’s one reason I did it,” he says.
“But even more important is the fact that I love heat pumps because they are helping the environment and fighting climate change, and they give a lot of benefits to our customers in costs and comfort. There’s no product I’d rather fight for.”
The right industry
Ochsner Heat Pumps benefits the environment by offering customers a way to heat or cool their homes with minimal use of fossil fuels. The technologies pioneered by Karl’s father harness heat from the air, sun, ground and groundwater, and transfer that energy to a heating circuit.
Different Ochsner products are better at harvesting heat from each source, but overall, they derive 75% of their energy from their surroundings and 25% from electricity.
Moreover, attaching a heat pump to solar panels or to green electricity generated by hydropower stations or wind turbines can even allow a family to heat and cool their home using 100% renewable energy.
“It’s clear that these technologies are a major contributor to decreasing people’s dependence on fossil fuels or gas,” Karl says. “Every year, there is so much innovation to improve these technologies, and there is still much more innovation to come.”
When Ochsner began manufacturing heat pumps in 1978, the technology was only applicable to newly built, private homes. It only provided low-temperature heating, and it sometimes had to be used in conjunction with other, more polluting technologies.
Today, however, Ochsner heat pumps reach 130°C and heat airports, shopping centres and skyscrapers, and can be used for industrial processes. “The heating power has improved massively. Heat pumps have no limits anymore,” Karl says.
“The heating power has improved massively. Heat pumps have no limits anymore.”
The company estimates that it has prevented 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere – a feat that Karl considers his contribution to youth advocacy movements such as Fridays For Future and the Youth Climate Strike.
“For me it’s very important that the next generation is able to benefit from a beautiful planet with healthy nature, wildlife and a hospitable climate. It’s very nice to produce something that allows our customers, together with us, to save a lot of CO2,” Karl says. “This is how I know I’m working in the right industry.”
“For me it’s very important that the next generation is benefiting from a beautiful planet with healthy nature, wildlife and climate.”
Safe and silent
While Karl is confident in the multitude of benefits his heat pumps can offer customers, he is aware that these facts might elude the average person who has never had a reason to research heat pumps.
“I think the average person should understand that Ochsner takes a lot of responsibility, first of all, for our customers and for the families that use our products. We want to give them a system that is safe and comfortable and that saves them money by decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels. Safety is also very important because there’s no flame, you don’t need a chimney and you don’t need any fire doors. This is something that is especially important to families with children,” Karl says.
Another thing he wishes was more widely known is that the money and carbon dioxide that heat pumps save for families can be scaled up massively by the industrial sector.
“Look at the processes in the paper industry, in the meat industry, in the chemical industry. There’s a lot of waste heat, as we call it, and it is not used. Heat pumps are the ideal technology to harness waste heat and put it to productive use,” Karl says.
“Heat pumps are the ideal technology to harness waste heat and put it to productive use.”
Understanding the world-saving power of heat pumps may be an incentive to install any brand, but Karl says there are equally powerful reasons to choose Ochsner.
“I would call us the Mercedes-Benz of the industry. It’s a really high-end product. We have very high efficiency, and our machines have a very long lifetime, which is important because every machine you produce has its own CO2 footprint. Two cheap machines cost more and have a higher CO2 footprint than one of our machines,” Karl says.
“We have the most silent heat pumps in the world, the most specialised customer service department, and the widest portfolio of products. We’re building over 150 different types of heat pumps. Nobody else is doing that.”
- The Ochsner family business dates back to 1872.
- Ochsner Heat Pumps was founded in 1978 and was one of the first European manufacturers to manufacture heat pumps on an industrial scale.
- Ochsner has concentrated solely on the heat pump sector since 1992.
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