These Are Not Your Father’s Heat Pumps Anymore

February 5, 2022

The graph above is a little hard to read, if you click on it you might open it in a separate window and expand. What it shows is that the top 3 countries in Europe for heat pump penetration are Norway, Sweden, and Finland. All folks who know something about staying warm. Just sayin.

Energy Monitor:

Hydrogen infrastructure is not going to be viable for domestic heating at scale for at least the next decade, says a briefing paper produced by independent experts from Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab.

Homes are responsible for approximately 23% of the UK’s carbon emissions, with gas boilers a major contributor, but replacing the gas network with hydrogen infrastructure would be a more expensive solution than installing heat pumps and could lead to a long delay in tackling emissions, the researchers say.

As seen in Germany, France and Italy over the past decade, making the existing housing stock more efficientgreen financing and long-term grants to increase the roll-out of heat pumpswould stimulate market growth and create tens of thousands of new jobs, the report finds.

The experts recommend establishing a consumer-facing heat pump council and a national heat pump research, testing and training facility. They conclude that hydrogen should be left for sectors that are hard to electrify such as shipping and aviation, and used for heating only where production is located close to industrial clusters. 

Here’s a better graph.

Carbon Switch:

One of the most common questions I get at Carbon Switch is “Do heat pumps work in cold weather and climates?”

Google this question or ask a contractor and you might think the answer is no. But make no mistake, heat pumps absolutely work in cold climates. Not only that, but often they are the most energy efficient and cost effective solution available. 

A few decades ago, most heat pumps stopped working when the temperature dropped below 20 or 30 degrees fahrenheit. By contrast,today’s heat pumps can run more efficiently than any other HVAC system all the way down to about -25 fahrenheit. 

Just ask the millions of homeowners in Scandinavia. People in Norway, Finland and Sweden are installing heat pumps at a faster pace than anywhere else in Europe. 

You might be thinking, “Scandinavians do everything better than the rest of the world.” But some states in America are actually adopting heat pumps at an even faster rate than the countries listed in the chart above — even some of the ones with the coldest climates.

Last year, in Maine, there were 50 units sold per 1,000 households, inching it just a little higher than Europe’s leading country, Norway. By comparison 23 units were sold per 1,000 households in the rest of the United States. 

There’s compelling evidence that heat pumps can save most homeowners a lot of money too. I recently used data from NREL’s ResStock model to see how much money the average homeowner can save by switching to a heat pump in various states. I discovered that the average homeowner in Maine — to use my favorite cold climate state as an example again — could save $718 per year.

In New York, a far more populous cold climate state, the average homeowner can save $637 per year. The millions of homeowners using fuel oil in the state could save $976 per year. 

I could go on and on. Pennsylvania: $935. Massachusetts: $838. Ohio: $676. You get the point. There are a lot of cold places in this country where heat pumps are simply the best way to heat a home and save money in the process.

Much more at the link.

Also nice wonky twitter thread here.

6 Responses to “These Are Not Your Father’s Heat Pumps Anymore”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    “today’s heat pumps can run more efficiently than any other HVAC system all the way down to about -25 fahrenheit. ”
    After some puzzlement, I realized they were talking about AIR sourced heat pumps.

    • neilrieck Says:

      Yep, “ground source” heat pumps (one example product line in the USA comes from Water Furnace – https://www.waterfurnace.com http://www.waterfurnace.ca/ ) is a whole different beast which, in most cases, can also heat your domestic hot water. Cooling mode: rather than dumping your waste heat into hot summer air, they dump into the cooler ground via a closed liquid loop. Heating mode just reverses the process. While outside air may swing from +30C to -10C as we move from summer to winter, the ground under your feet usually only moves from +20C to +10C. BTW, “COP” (coefficient of performance) only applies to heating mode as compared to an electric furnace. An electric furnace is assumed to be 100% efficient so have a COP=1 (1KW of electricity is converted into an equivalent amount of heat). Ground source heat pumps almost always have a COP in the range of 4-5 (so the electricity consumption is 1/4 to 1/5 of an electric furnace for the same amount of heat)

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I remember all of those old British/BBC telly and movies with the issue of whether the night’s temperature merited “one bar, or two?” (often in the context of pinching pennies with electrical costs), in reference to the “electric fire” appliance in so many homes:

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    In other news, I finally scheduled the shutoff of my Texas Gas Service account. I realized I didn’t have to wait until I replaced my gas-top range, since I could make do with countertop induction cook-plate until the full-size version I wanted was available.

    Between the limited availability and the total installation cost I don’t know how we can speed up the transition away from oil/gas furnaces in homes. I’m relatively rich (and I settled for whatever model was on the truck). Most people will find it more difficult than I have.

    • Keith McClary Says:

      I’ve heard that gas stove fumes are pretty nasty, like car exhaust, except cars have catalytic converters.

      How the Fossil Fuel Industry Convinced Americans to Love Gas Stoves
      https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2021/06/how-the-fossil-fuel-industry-convinced-americans-to-love-gas-stoves/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        I had a good laugh a few months ago at a gas bill insert that was offering a rebate on gas-fired clothes dryers. How very generous of them!

        In any case, the cooks in my family always thought the best combination was electric oven and gas tops, where they could monitor the heat under sauces and such. It didn’t help that early generations of resistance-element cook-tops were so awful.

        Sent my foodie sister an induction cook-plate and requested a Christmas gift to me would be a video of her cooking something on it (which she sent). Many of her YouTube chefs are now gushing converts to induction cooking. [It also helps that her job as an industrial process engineer has made her leery of gas appliances.]


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