In 2020, the Sierra Club conducted a detailed analysis of current and future electricity grid and assessed the impact of converting homes to electric heat pumps. The answer is clear: Installing clean, electric heat pumps to replace gas heaters or wood fires cuts climate and health pollution.
The climate benefits of electrification are due to (1) the superior performance of heat pumps, which use at least three to four times less energy than other appliances, and (2) the fact that electricity grids are already using significant amounts of renewable energy and will continue to get cleaner over the lifetime of a new electric appliance.
“In fact, for the average house, installing electric heat pumps will reduce heating emissions more than 45 percent over the next 10 years”
Sierra say that a heat pump is definitely better for the environment. Heat pumps use only about a third as much electricity as other electric heaters.
A heat pump uses a compressor and refrigerant to move heat from one place to another. It can extract heat from outside air, even in the winter, and release it inside a house, basically like an air-conditioner running in reverse.
This design means they can also cool homes, but they are best suited for heating, says Kashif Nawaz, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They deliver three to four times as much heat for the same energy input.
“They are the most efficient heating equipment for domestic heating”
In the US, new Rocky Mountain Institute analysis examined each of the lower 48 states, focusing on the largest direct use of fossil fuel in buildings: home heating. The found that heat pump technology is a particularly efficient way to heat a home, delivering two to four times more heating energy than the electricity it consumes.
Their analysis found two key reasons why a heat pump purchased today will have lower carbon emissions than a gas furnace over the 15-year appliance lifetime: (1) modern heat pumps are significantly more efficient than gas furnaces, even in cold climates; (2) the electricity sector has reached a tipping point in reducing carbon emissions.
The largest single form of energy demand on the planet is our use of heat.
In fact, Forbes stated recently that, heating water, our homes, and heat for industrial processes account for more than half of all energy demand, according to the IEA.
But just 10 percent of this heat comes from renewable sources, with the majority being produced using fossil fuels.
This creates a major challenge for governments around the world as they seek to decarbonize society and meet climate change targets tied to the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Forbes offered seven ways heat can be decarbonized in both the residential and industrial sectors.
What is significant for New Zealand though, is the first two items on their recommended list.
- Electrification with storage
Renewable energy has helped dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of electricity across the globe.
Because of this, some say the key to cutting carbon emissions is to electrify everything.
And when it comes to residential heating, there is an argument that electrification can provide the greenest solution.
- Heat pumpsWhile the economics of electrifying heat may take a while to stack up, other forms of renewable heat are already making inroads into traditional fossil fuel-fired systems.
Heat pumps take natural warmth from the ground or air and use it for both space heating and hot water.
While heat pumps currently meet just 3 percent of global heat demand from buildings, they have seen rapid growth in recent years: the growth rate in global heat pump sales doubled between 2016 and 2018, with 80 percent of new household heat pump installations in China, Japan and the U.S..
Europe is the fastest-growing market for heat pump sales as many countries seek to decarbonize. For example, the Netherlands has committed to phase out natural gas heating entirely by 2050. As a result of this policy, heat pump sales in the country have grown by more than 50 percent each year since its announcement in 2017.
Of course, the other main benefit of using heat pumps is the significant cost savings.
Given that heating can account for over 35% of our winter power bill, choosing the best option to heat your home is important.
Heat pumps are a very cost effective alternative to traditional electric heating options because they move – rather than generate – heat. (1)
“They are the most energy efficient and cost effective electric way to keep your home warm and dry during the cooler months.”
Heat pumps are efficient in cold weather. Using a heat pump can save you money compared to other forms of heating.
A heat pump’s running costs depend on how long you use it and its energy output. According to energywise.govt.nz, a heat pump used 6 hours per day for 6 months of the year with an energy output of 6KwH will cost around $400 per year to run.
“Using a heat pump instead of an equivalent electric heater in your living space can save you around $500 a year.”
Eight ways to save money using your heat pump
- The best way to use a heat pump is to keep the setting low (18ºC or – 20ºC). Don’t set your heat pump to the maximum – it won’t heat the room any quicker, but it will use more energy. Programme it to turn on 15 minutes before you need it instead.*
- Prepare your heat pump for winter. There’s a handy video on how to clean your heat pump filter here.
- Clean both your indoor and outdoor heat pump filter regularly – at least once a year. It’s simple and quick to do this yourself unless the placement of the outside unit is difficult to get to.
- Only heat the space you’re using. Don’t have heat pumps going in bedrooms or in rooms you’re not using.
- Turn off your heat pump when it’s not in use. It can run for as long as you need, but make sure you switch it off when you’re not using it.
- Close doors and curtains to keep the heat in.
- If you can, get your house insulated. The better insulated your home, the better it will hold the heat and the more energy efficient the heat pump will be.
- Use the timer function to heat the space 15 minutes before you use it, or invest in a Smart WiFi controlled heat pump so you can control it remotely using an App on your Smart phone.
WE INSTALL HEAT PUMPS IN DUNEDIN & OTAGO.