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  • Matt Cohen

Heat Pumps: Clearing the Air

Heat pumps are steadily increasing in popularity in the United States, but not as quickly as we might like. Rather than generating heat from burning fossil fuels, air-sourced heat pumps will either draw (or sink) heat into the outside air depending on the season. By comparison, the ground-sourced heat pumps exchange with the ground, which is approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, usually with a COP (Coefficient of Performance) between 3.0 - 4.0, meaning for every 1 unit of energy that is input, the system will yield 3 - 4 units of heat. Traditional fuel-burning HVAC equipment typically operates with a COP of 0.8 - 0.9. This technology has been around for quite a while, but there are still some misconceptions preventing heat pumps from really taking off. One common misconception is that heat pumps do not work well in cold climates. Heat pumps are extremely popular in Baltic states like Sweden, and are increasing in regularity in the Northeastern United States. Efficiency Maine has received positive feedback from new heat pump customers, saying their residential systems performed well, despite experiencing sub-zero temperatures. The pilot program showed that 7 of the 10 monitored homes did not use their backup heating system during the harsh winter. As fuel-burning equipment becomes more expensive to operate, heat pump technology improves, and adoption hesitancy is resolved, standard building practices will shift towards electrification. Federal incentives and utility rebates are making clean energy options cost competitive, driving many residents to make the switch. Keep an eye out in your community, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about heat pumps!

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