When it comes to HVAC systems for residential and commercial spaces, heat pumps have taken center stage lately. Between the government’s climate action drive toward decarbonization, newly available incentives and technological advances, we’ve got a quickly evolving energy efficiency market. Heat pumps are exciting because they meet multiple goals for end users and the planet, and that’s made the technology very popular.
But the United States is vast, and each region has different needs and concerns. At Evergreen, we’ve created a unique approach that combines our overarching grasp of national heat pump trends with our understanding of customer nuances in specific regions. We’re using these insights to build bridges between utilities and customers.
Let’s take a look at why heat pumps deserve customer adoption, part of the uphill battle they’re facing and how utilities can draw on our dynamic process to reach and inform customers.
What’s So Good About Heat Pumps?
Despite the name, “heat” pumps provide both heating and cooling. The efficient way they transfer heat from outside to indoor spaces works just as well in reverse to cool a space. This is great news for customers, especially with increasing extreme weather patterns the U.S. Customers can switch to a heat pump for both heating and cooling, or they can upgrade their existing HVAC system. End users gain energy efficiency, dependable comfort and higher indoor air quality.
Decarbonization also takes into account the embodied carbon in certain products like refrigerants. New federal mandates mean heat pump manufacturers will no longer be using hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in their production. This is important because HFC leaks are common and harmful to the environment but are often undetectable (odorless and invisible to the naked eye). By switching to low-global-warming refrigerants, greenhouse gas emissions will also be reduced in the event of a leak during installation, operation or decommissioning.
Some Americans think heat pumps are new, but the technology has been around for 200 years, and the first ground-source heat pump was introduced more than 70 years ago. Those familiar with heat pumps often don’t realize how far the technology has advanced, and that creates misconceptions about their effectiveness. In fact, one of the most outstanding innovations in the past five years is that heat pumps can operate well in much lower outdoor temperatures than before.
The drive for technologies that offer more holistic environmental benefit– rather than simply measuring kilowatt hours saved – spurred incentives for heat pumps in the form of rebates and tax credits from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and even at state levels.
Addressing Heat Pump Challenges
So, there are great reasons to encourage heat pump technology, but its adoption needs to occur in a meaningful way. Installations resulting in unhappy customers and frustrated contractors will undermine the effort. That’s why education is the key to success.
“Heat pump” is an umbrella term encompassing multiple heat pump technologies. With so many options, it’s important to know which heat pump will work best in specific situations and how to provide the right-sized system.
Contractors are a crucial point in this process. Customers want to take advantage of publicized incentives, and contractors often drive customer decisions. But many contractors haven’t been educated on heat pump installations, and sizing them isn’t always straightforward. Undersized systems will not meet customer needs for comfort, and oversized systems will consume unnecessary energy. And when installing ducted systems, the duct sizing has to be compatible. Setting up the control systems properly, commissioning the system and regular maintenance are also very important to proper heat pump function.
Evergreen is making major inroads in contractor education, helping utilities administer heat pump incentives and paving the way for excellent customer experiences.
Innovative Approach to Heat Pump Technology