The Future of Heat Pumps: An Expert's Perspective

Electric heat pumps for homes could be a clean and green technology of the future. Heat pumps offer an environmentally friendly and efficient way to heat homes with electricity, not fossil fuels. The new designs make them more efficient and suitable for more conditions. President of HVACR Technologies, Americas Copeland A heat pump system heats a house or building using electricity, instead of burning fossil fuels such as boilers and furnaces. While traditional heating systems generate heat, heat pumps simply transfer it.

In winter, heat pumps capture heat from outside, even in cold weather, and release it indoors. In summer, heat pumps reverse flow, capture heat from inside a building and release it to the outside, thus creating a cooler interior space. There are three main types of heat pumps: air-source, water-source, and geothermal, which differ in where they collect heat: from air, water, or the ground outside a building, respectively. And while regulating the temperature of indoor spaces is the most prominent use of technology, heat pumps can also be used as water heaters for homes, buildings, and swimming pools.

An Efficient and Sustainable SolutionWhen it comes to heating and cooling, the commercial and residential sectors are responsible for 13% of the total U. S. UU. These emissions from businesses and households are mainly due to fossil fuels that are burned to generate heat.

Indirect emissions from electricity production account for more than a quarter of the country's emissions, since more than half of the U. electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. As the country begins to shift electricity production to natural gas and renewable energies, which consume less carbon, heat pumps, which use electricity, will offer a significant opportunity to reduce GHG emissions. However, despite this steady growth in new construction, with technology that has been available for decades, there have been challenges in delaying the widespread adoption of heat pumps. Chief among these are concerns about performance in colder climates, the cost of installation and operation, inconsistencies in policies and incentives, and the need for sales skills and training for new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians.

Heat pump adoption initiatives such as those in the U. Department of Energy (DOE) cold climate residential heat pump technology challenge reflects ongoing efforts to promote technological advances in ducted heat pumps. The DOE has partnered with major HVAC companies to accelerate the performance of cold weather heat pump technology by improving the efficiency and capacity offered at low ambient temperatures. Through this program, the DOE aims to develop new technology specifications for a high-performance cold climate heat pump that meets consumer needs and, at the same time, launch pilot programs with partners to identify and alleviate installation challenges. As advances are made in the residential market, they are expected to be rapidly transferred to commercial applications, accelerating adoption.

Costs & Incentives

Electricity rates and the cost of modernization are issues that limit the wider adoption of heat pumps.

Installation costs may be higher for existing buildings, where retroactive installation of heat pumps can be difficult and require integration with existing systems. While costs vary, modernizing a heat pump in a building or home can sometimes cost more than installing or replacing traditional fossil-fuel HVAC systems. Another dynamic is the trend in natural gas and electricity rates and their impact on operating costs through electrification. In many places in the U. UU., natural gas prices are lower than electricity prices.

Over time, this is expected to change, and gasoline prices are expected to rise more significantly than electricity prices. While infrastructure upgrades that are often needed to add a heat pump can increase initial costs, a comprehensive building approach can help homeowners save in the long term. Since operating cost is the main contributor to achieving the best efficiency, evaluating the envelope of an entire building by introducing improvements such as new windows and insulation can help maximize investment in heat pumps. These improvements can work together to reduce monthly utility costs which can increase significantly over time. In addition there are several government and utility incentives to help mitigate the higher initial costs often associated with installing heat pumps. Many utility companies offer discounts for qualifying heat pumps and other energy efficient solutions. The Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Credit provides a tax credit of 30% of the installation costs of HVAC products that meet the highest efficiency level in the EEC including heat pumps.

In addition The Inflation Reduction Act includes point-of-sale rebates for low-and moderate-income families and tax credits for the purchase of higher-efficiency heat pumps designed to increase the adoption of heat pumps in new and existing homes and buildings.

Training & Education

As more experienced service technicians begin to retire newer technicians enter the industry and will need to be trained quickly in aspects such as proper sizing and installation of heat pump systems. Copeland has ongoing programs to support training and development of next generation qualified merchants including a partnership with National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC) a professional & technical training organization that supports advancement of specialized commerce. For more than 20 years Copeland has also been proud to support HVACR industry through its commitment to education & training initiatives such as its partnership with NC which provides students with access to industry-recognized certifications. As policies regulations & rebates help drive adoption & industry advances cold climate technology consumers still need options today that will help us move towards a more sustainable world. Copeland fully supports decarbonization policies that will allow such flexibility including use of dual fuel systems. As we look towards future it's clear that electric powered heating & cooling solutions like Heat Pumps will play an important role in helping us achieve our sustainability goals while providing consumers with efficient & cost effective solutions.

Tanner Merine
Tanner Merine

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