Reducing Carbon Footprint with High-Efficiency Heat Pumps

Buildings use more than one-third of the world’s energy, most of it for heating spaces and water. Most of this heat is generated by burning natural gas, oil, or propane. And where these fossil fuels are consumed, greenhouse gas emissions are a given.

Electric heat pumps, first widely used in the 1970s in Europe, could be the best solution to cut that fossil fuel use. They could slash the carbon emissions of buildings by half. And if powered by renewables, emissions could potentially go down to zero.

Cutting carbon emissions from heating and cooling will be critical to keep global average temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Already, climate change has caused average global temperatures to rise by approximately 1 degree C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At the United Nations Climate Action Summit, world leaders discuss concrete steps to meet climate targets.

Large heat pumps are starting to find use in industry—mainly food, chemical, paper, and wood factories—where they can recover waste heat. But less than 3 percent of heating needs in buildings are met with heat pumps, according to the International Energy Agency. That’s because it’s still cheaper to burn fossil fuels. But heat pumps are starting to gain traction as the technology matures and countries focus on tackling climate change by meeting emissions reduction targets.

Global heat-pump sales jumped between 2019 and 2020. Energy policies in China, Japan, and Europe have created large, fast-growing markets. In the United States, California’s push for building electrification should boost heat-pump sales. This in turn is making manufacturers and installers pay attention.

Things are moving in the right direction for heat-pump technology. There has been a lot of adoption and interest. And some challenges which can also be opportunities.

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. Compared with conventional resistive electric heaters and gas-fired furnaces, they are the most efficient heating equipment for domestic heating. They deliver three to four times as much heat for the same energy input.TAGS: HIGH EFFICIENCY HVACHIGH-EFFICIENCY VARIABLE SPEED TECHNOLOGY