The state of Washington is taking heat pumps seriously.
The state building code council has mandated that, starting in July of 2023, new home construction must use heat pumps for space and water heating. That means heat pumps will soon warm and cool every new house and apartment built in Washington state. That heat pump requirement for new construction is among the nation’s strongest.
Electricity powered heat pumps can be 2 to 4 times more energy efficient than typical gas heating equipment, and they don’t directly emit methane — a potent GHG and a major source of health harming air pollutants. Heat pumps are quite efficient at shrinking buildings’ energy demand and curbing emissions. They can provide high efficiency heating in freezing temperatures, cut local air pollution and GHGs, and potentially save families $500 a year or more on their utility bills.
The devices work a lot like air conditioners. To cool rooms, heat pumps use a condensing liquid to absorb the excess heat indoors and transfer it outdoors. To warm rooms, the units work in reverse, pulling the outside air inside and transferring heat in the process — even in extremely cold winter temperatures. Heat pump systems for water supplies work similarly, except that the heat is transferred from the air into large water storage tanks.
Heat pumps offer an energy efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners for all climates by using electricity to transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. Because heat pumps transfer heat rather than generate heat, this technology efficiently provides comfortable temperatures for heating and cooling homes and businesses.
At the beginning of this month, the Biden-Harris Administration in conjunction with the US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed it was trying to determine the best way to leverage the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic electric heat pump manufacturing.
The Administration recognizes that increasing the US manufacturing output and deployment of electric heat pumps is critical to achieving domestic climate, energy savings, and energy security goals. There’s $250 million allocated within the DPA for heat pump investment. Add into that the Inflation Reduction Act, and the US is positioned to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, strengthen national defense and energy security, lower consumer energy costs, improve home efficiency, and mitigate the climate crisis.
It’s no secret that the current US energy system is largely dependent on fossil fuels that remain susceptible to market volatilities. Russia’s war on Ukraine and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted global supply chains. Increased use of electric heat pumps, particularly when replacing fuel oil and natural gas for air and water heating, will allow more people in the US to benefit from lower energy costs through home grown clean energy technologies.
The DOE is seeking input that will address energy equity and accessibility, potential benefits for neighboring communities and providing support for small and medium sized manufacturing companies.
As part of DOE’s Residential Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge, Carrier and Trane Technologies are the newest partners to successfully develop a next generation electric heat pump that can more effectively heat homes in colder climates relative to today’s models. Both companies join Lennox, which was announced earlier this year as the first company with US operations to support this effort.
These companies will provide prototypes that will be installed in homes for performance monitoring and testing.
It’s not just Washington state that is looking to heat pumps to help building energy. Over 15 states and roughly 100 cities have begun to shift policies to encourage or require electrification of homes, workplaces, schools, and government buildings. A $4 billion initiative is underway to switch New York City’s existing school buildings to all electric heating.
As reported by RMI, several states are rushing to help heat pumps take hold in building construction.