In the last year heat pumps have been getting more popular.

But most people still have no idea what heck they are or why they are such an important climate solution.

So here's a thread on why heat pumps are so important for meeting our climate goals

First, it's important to understand the scale of the problem heat pumps solve.

Today the energy we use in our homes is responsible for 20% of emissions in America.

That's a billion tons per year!

If our homes were a country, they'd rank 4th in annual emissions just behind India and ahead of Russia.


So what is all that energy being used on?

Three things make up ~80% of the total:

Space heating: ~50%
Water heating: ~20%
Air conditioning: ~10%

Heat pump technology tackles all three.

Heat pumps are different than traditional HVAC and water heaters in two primary ways:

1. They run on electricity.

2. They are way more energy efficient.
The fact that they run on electricity is important because even if we got our grid to 100% renewable energy tomorrow, we'd still have hundreds of millions of tons of emissions from gas, oil, and propane heating systems.
Technically speaking we could replace all those fossil fuel heaters with electric furnaces.

But that'd be a terrible idea.

Why? Because electric furnaces use a lot more electricity than heat pumps.
More electricity demand means we have to build more solar, wind, batteries, and transmission lines.

And building stuff is hard!

It's also expensive.

And you have to deal with NIMBYs and (oddly) sometimes environmentalists.

Heat pumps will help us avoid some of that.
As a climate solution, heat pumps are also unique in that:

1. The technology is already production-ready.

2. A lot of people can save money by switching to a heat pump.
Compare that to something like direct-air capture, which is also all the rage these days.

That technology is nascent and still years or even decades from being production-ready.
Or compare it to going vegan.

I've been vegan for the last two years and every time I tell people they say something like "Oh I could never do that. I'd miss [insert_meat_of_choice] too much."

It's perceived by most as a sacrifice.
Switching to a heat pump on the other hand can save you $10-20k over the lifespan of the unit.

The personal finance blogger Mr. Money Mustache said he expects a 15% annual return on his investment.

That's anti-sacrifice.…
There's still a lot of work to do before every home has a heat pump.

Today, only 14% of single-family homes use heat pumps for heating.

Only 20% of homes use a heat pump for cooling.

EIA, where I got most of this data, doesn't even track heat pump water heaters it's so bad.
But heat pumps have a lot of good things going for them as a climate solution.

Now we just have to make them as cool (no pun intended) and popular as solar, wind, and EVs!
Ok, we also have to pass a bunch of policy, build up our country's skilled trade workforce, get manufacturers to drive down the cost per unit, etc.

But we have to make them cool and popular too!
Huge shoutout to all these people / organizations who are doing the good work in the world of heat pumps and electrification:

@GriffithSaul for somehow getting millions of people to pay attention to the boring topic of HVAC!

@rewiringamerica for pushing for federal policy
@GriffithSaul @rewiringamerica @energysmartohio for being Twitter's resident HVAC expert and technician.

@MaraKAbbott for tweeting her electrification journey.

@blkahn @emilypont @haubursin @rebleber @drvolts @timmcdonnell @MJ_Coren for their reporting on heat pumps.


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More from @curious_founder

20 Oct
Is it more effective to reduce your personal carbon footprint or focus on collective action?

There might not be a question that divides the #climate community more.

Let's talk about why that's the wrong question and ultimately a distraction.

In the last few years there have been some great stories about Big Oil's "carbon footprint sham"

Like this story by @SkepticalRanger -…

And this one by @katemyoder -…
The takeaway: fossil fuel companies like BP invented and promoted the concept of a carbon footprint.


To distract the public and shift the blame away from them and towards the individual.
Read 15 tweets

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