April 20, 2024

New Report Highlights the Benefits of Heat Pumps

A new report by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has detailed the benefits of using heat pumps in households across the United States. The researchers found that while a majority of Americans could enjoy reduced energy bills by using heat pumps, the high cost of installation remains a barrier.

The study, published in the journal Joule, analyzed the costs and benefits of air-source heat pumps in various climates, heating sources, and types of homes. The researchers simulated 550,000 statistically representative households and took into account factors such as the performance of different heat pumps and the impact of insulation upgrades.

According to the analysis, between 62% and 95% of households would experience a drop in their energy bills by using a heat pump, depending on the efficiency of the pump. This percentage increases to 82% to 97% when additional steps are taken to upgrade insulation. However, the high installation costs make heat pumps financially feasible for only a smaller portion of households.

Eric Wilson, a senior research engineer at NREL and lead author of the report, explained that there are millions of people who could benefit from heat pumps, with incentives available through the Inflation Reduction Act. However, there are still millions of households for whom the technology remains too expensive, highlighting the need to reduce installation costs.

The study found that heat pumps provide both heating and air conditioning, offering additional comfort to homeowners who do not already have air conditioning. However, the researchers noted that installers without experience working with heat pumps may charge higher prices to cover the additional hassle and risk.

On a national level, the researchers estimated that heat pumps could reduce home site energy use by 31% to 47% on average, depending on efficiency. When combined with building upgrades such as better insulation, this range increases to 41% to 52%. However, due to lower natural gas prices compared to electricity prices in many parts of the country, the energy cost savings are not as significant as the energy savings.

The type of heating fuel used and the presence of air conditioning were found to have the most significant impact on potential savings. For homes using electricity, fuel oil, or propane for heat and with air conditioning, between 92% and 100% would see energy bill savings, with median savings ranging from $300 to $650 per year based on heat pump efficiency.

Co-author Prateek Munankarmi highlighted that the savings were most noticeable in colder climates. He also noted that homeowners could save thousands of dollars by opting for smaller heat pumps if they first improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Additionally, the study found that the installation of heat pumps would lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in every state, with the largest decrease seen when replacing a heating system powered by fossil fuels. Nationally, heat pumps could cut residential sector greenhouse gas emissions by 36% to 64%, including those associated with new electricity generation.

The report underscores the potential benefits of heat pumps in reducing energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. However, further efforts are needed to make the technology more accessible and affordable for a greater number of households.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it