The path to your 100% clean energy lifestyle starts with actions like switching to clean energy for your electricity, and then using that clean electricity more efficiently.

How do you get all the way to 100%?

You probably won’t do it all at once. But when you’re ready, an important step on the path is making sure your heating and cooling are powered by clean energy.

Heating is the largest home energy bill for most Americans, and produces more carbon emissions than any other residential activity. So it’s a great place to save energy and money, while making a big environmental impact.

The best way to do this is with an electric heat pump.

Haven’t heard of a heat pump? You’re not alone. It wasn’t long ago that most Americans weren’t aware of them. But heat pumps are becoming more popular all the time, with sales up 30% in just the last two years. Read on to find out why.

What the heck is a heat pump?

heatingA heat pump is an efficient engine that heats your home with much less energy than a traditional heater. That’s because instead of generating heat — by burning gas, for example — all a heat pump does is move heat from one place to another.

It’s likely you already have a heat pump or two in your home. A heat pump is what keeps the inside of your refrigerator cold. Your air conditioner also uses a heat pump to cool your home. We think of these items in terms of cooling, but they’re actually pulling the heat out of one space and moving it somewhere else.

Like a central air conditioner, a heat pump is installed outside your home and connected to an internal fan and duct system.

A heater and air conditioner in one!

air-source heat pumps

It’s a bit misleading of us to say that a heat pump is like an air conditioner. It actually is an air conditioner — and a heater!

That’s right, a heat pump is two in one. So using a heat pump means you avoid buying two appliances. Just one heat pump can both heat and cool your home.

In fact, when a heat pump heats your home, it’s really just an air conditioner running in reverse. When cooling your home, a heat pump uses a liquid that it compresses and expands to move heat from inside your home to the outside. To heat your home, the heat pump simply reverses the expanding and compressing process.

Two types of heat pumps

comfort

You can choose between these two types of heat pumps:

  • Air-source: Moves heat through the air. The unit is similar to a central air conditioner and can even be the same piece of equipment.
  • Geothermal: Moves heat to and from the ground. Requires drilling into the ground to install.

Both kinds of heat pumps are popular. As many as 50,000 American homes are switching to geothermal each year, and air-source heat pumps are starting to gain on them. That’s partly because modern air-source heat pumps can work in more climates than their predecessors could.

Which heat pump is right for you? That depends how much you’re comfortable spending upfront, whether you’re okay with having a hole drilled on your property, and what climate you live in. Here’s a quick reference you can use to compare your options:

heating with a heat pump - comparison

Whichever one you pick, you’ll save energy and money — because both types of heat pumps are more efficient than a traditional furnace. And you can power both with clean electricity, instead of dirty fossil fuels.

Heating your water with a heat pump

heating water

Heat pumps aren’t just for heating and cooling your home. They can also heat your water. In some cases, you can even use the same heat pump to heat your water and to heat and cool the air in your home.

Heat pump water heaters are basically a type of electric water heater. Instead of generating heat, they take heat from the air and move it into your water heater tank. That makes them much more efficient than traditional water heaters.

Heat pump water heaters are more expensive than traditional water heaters, but if you combine them with solar power, you’ll likely save money over time. And you’ll certainly save energy.

How much can you save with a heat pump?

heating

A heat pump can save you more than you might think — especially if you combine it with savings from solar power.

The table below shows average annual heating costs by fuel and furnace type. If for some reason you have a very old gas furnace from the 1970s, its efficiency will be even lower at about 65%.

Note: These are averages; costs will vary depending on fuel prices in your area.

Heater Type Efficiency Annual Cost
Higher-end heat pump 300% $466*
Lower-end heat pump 150% $932*
Modern natural gas furnace 90% $857
Older natural gas furnace 75% $1029
Heating oil 90% $945
Propane 90% $1059

* Operating cost will be even lower if powered by solar.

Heat pumps are generally more expensive than traditional HVAC equipment. But they usually pay for themselves with energy savings.

When compared to gas furnaces, heat pumps usually run $1,000 to $2,000 more. They typically cost about $1,000 more than a central air conditioner, but only $200 to $300 more than a ductless air conditioning system. As you can see from the table, depending on your situation, you may be able to make up these extra costs quickly.

A heat pump bonus

heating

Saving money and energy is great. And we all love helping the environment while we’re at it!

But the benefits of a heat pump don’t end there. These devices will also make your home much more comfortable. That’s because the heating and cooling a heat pump produces is less intense, which reduces hot and cold spots throughout your home.

Is a heat pump right for you?

There’s no denying that a heat pump is a big purchase. If you’re like most people, the ideal time to make the switch is when you need to replace your furnace anyway. You might also consider switching if you’re going solar, since your savings will be much bigger.

For expert, unbiased guidance, contact a MyDomino energy savings concierge. Your concierge will explain the ins and outs of heat pumps, and help you see if a heat pump makes sense for your home.

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