2021-02-27 Heat Pumps Save Money

From Gates p.154

<< How much money can a heat pump save you? Here are a few examples of the savings on new construction in cities around the US. [Chart of four US cities, with an average saving of 22%] You won’t save as much if you’re retro fitting and existing home, but switching to a heat pump is still less expensive in most cities. In Houston, for example, doing this will save you 17 percent. In Chicago your cost will actually go up 6% because natural gas there is unusually cheap. And some older homes is simply not practical to find space for new equipment, so you might not be able to upgrade at all.

Still, these negative green premiums raise an obvious question: If heat pumps are such a great deal, why are they in only 11% of American homes?

Partly it’s because we replace our furnaces only every decade or so, and most people don’t have enough extra cash on hand to simply replace a perfectly good furnace with a heat pump.

But there’s another explanation as well: outdated government policies. Since the energy crisis of the 1970s, we’ve been trying to cut down on energy use, and so state governments created various incentives to favor natural gas furnaces and water heaters over less efficient electric ones. Some modified their building codes to make it harder for homeowners to replace their gas appliances with electric alternatives. Many of these policies that prize efficiency over emissions are still on the books, restricting your ability to lower your emissions by swapping out a gas-burning furnace for an electric heat pump even if doing this would save you money.

This is frustrating in that familiar “regulations really can be dumb” way. But if you look at it from a different angle, it’s good news. It means we don’t need some additional technological breakthrough to reduce our emissions in this area, beyond decarbonizing our power grid. The electric option already exists, it’s widely available, and it isn’t merely price competitive—it’s actually cheaper. We just need to make sure our government policies keep up with the times.

Unfortunately, although it’s technically possible to zero out heating emissions by going electric, it won’t happen quickly. Even if we fixed the self-defeating regulations I mentioned, it’s not realistic to think we’ll simply rip out all our gas furnaces and water heaters and replace them with electric ones overnight, any more than we’re suddenly going to run the world’s fleet of passenger cars on electricity. Given how long today’s furnaces last, if we had a goal of getting rid of all the gas-powered ones by mid-century, we’d have to stop selling them by 2035. Today around half of all furnaces sold in the United States run on gas; worldwide, fossil fuels provide six times more energy for heating than electricity does.

To me, that’s another argument for why we need advanced bio fuels and electrofuels like the ones I mentioned in chapter 7 — ones that can be run in the furnaces and water heaters we have today, without modification, and that don’t add more carbon to the atmosphere. But right now both options carry a hefty green premium:

[Chart of heating oil & natural gas vs. biofuels and electrofuels; 142% or 425% more for natural gas.]

Clearly we need to drive down the price of these alternative fuels, as I argued in chapter 7. And there are other steps we can take to decarbonize our heating systems:

Electrify as much as we can, getting rid of gas powered furnaces and water heaters and replacing them with electric heat pumps. In some regions, governments will have to update their policies to allow – and encourage – these upgrades.

Decarbonize the power grid by deploying today’s clean sources where they make sense investing in breakthroughs for generating, storing, and transmitting power.

Use energy more efficiently. This may seem like a contradiction, because just a few paragraphs ago I complained about policies that price higher efficiency over lower emissions the truth is, we need both.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© RustyBolt.Info/wordpress