When it was time to remodel their home in southern Maine, CLF’s Greg Cunningham and his wife decided they would use heat pumps – rather than oil or gas – as their main source of heat.
When they bought the house, they first considered how to make it energy efficient, both to save money on their bills and to reduce their carbon footprint. (As the head of CLF’s Clean Energy and Climate Change program, this is an issue dear to Greg’s heart.) So they prepared to seal out the cold and lock in the heat with energy efficient windows and blown-in cellulose insulation. And they decided to supply that heat using electric heat pumps.
“We have many options for heating our homes,” says Greg. “Alternatives like heat pumps avoid the use of oil and natural gas furnaces, which pollute our environment and damage our climate.”
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
Heat pumps draw in air from the outside and use the difference in temperature between the the air inside and the air outside to heat your home. Many of them can also cool your home – using nearly the same mechanism to keep your home comfortably cool during humid summers.
And, because heat pumps use electricity, rather than polluting gas or oil, they can be paired with solar panels or other cleaner forms of power.
That’s exactly what CLF Staff Attorney Melissa Birchard did at her home in central New Hampshire. When she and her husband bought their house, they made sure they would be able to add solar panels to the roof – in part to power their newly installed heat pumps. This meant they could move away from climate-damaging fossil fuels not only for powering their home, but heating it, too.
“Heat pumps are a really quick way to move off of fossil fuels and save carbon,” says Melissa. And on top of the climate benefits, they save on heating costs and make your home easy to heat and cool.
“They have the unique ability to heat a space in a very short period of time utilizing very little electricity,” says Greg. This means they’re perfect for large open rooms like a living or dining room connected to a kitchen or family area.
How Do You Get a Heat Pump?
Every home is unique, so the process might be a bit different for everyone. But the best place to start is by talking to your contractor if you’re already remodeling your home, reading resources such as NHSaves, MassSave, and Efficiency Maine (depending on your state), or just speaking to a local HVAC professional.
“Every HVAC contractor knows how to service a heat pump,” says Melissa. “It’s very easy. You can get your local HVAC contractor to install the heat pump and they’ll come out and check it for you and clean the filters once a year. It’s nothing unusual for them.”
What’s more, state and federal rebate programs can defray the upfront costs of buying and installing them. “They save so much energy that governments across New England, as well as the federal government, want to encourage people to put heat pumps in their home,” says Melissa.
So next time you’re looking to upgrade your home, or want to knock back your winter heating bill, look past a gas hookup and ask about heat pumps.
(An earlier version of this post ran in January 2019)