One of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the US comes from heating buildings. The Biden administration is trying to change that by promoting efficient electric heat pumps. But as the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports, getting Americans to switch to heat pumps won’t be easy.
FRAZIER: When it comes to carbon dioxide pollution, the main cause of climate change. Heat pumps have two advantages over fossil fuels like natural gas, propane and heating oil. One is they use electricity, so it’s possible to run them on zero carbon sources like wind, solar and nuclear. The other is they’re very efficient. Amy Boyd is with the Acadia Center in Boston, which helps northeastern states meet climate targets. She says heat pumps work so well because they’re not generating heat like a furnace or stove. Instead, they rely on a clever piece of technology called a heat exchanger.
BOYD: The way that heat pumps work is they move heat. And so even if it seems cold to your eye, if it’s any warmer than the vacuum of space, then there is heat out there to be moved.
FRAZIER: Because it’s only moving heat around, not creating it. Heat pumps are up to four times more efficient than a standard furnace. In the summer, they can reverse themselves, doubling as air conditioners. Right now, about 10% of homes in the U.S. use heat pumps. That number will have to go up if the country is going to meet its climate goals.
BOYD: Eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions that are coming from our heat, particularly in the Northeast, is one of the biggest things that an individual consumer can do to fight climate change.
You can listen to the full exchange or read the entire transcript here.