Heat pumps are a hot topic right now because they could be a cool solution to potentially cutting the overall energy demand of the U.S. in half.
The International Energy Agency calls heat pumps “the central technology in the global transition to secure and sustainable heating.” That may sound like hyperbole, but climate activists are warming to the fact that widespread heat pump installation could have major effects on sustainably meeting the planet’s energy needs.
Michael Barnard, a decarbonization professional writing for CleanTechnica, describes a “eureka moment” he recently had about heat pumps.
Rather than discussing how much of the world’s dirty energy must be replaced by clean energy in the coming years, Barnard estimates the amount of total energy the world would need if heat pumps were widely installed and used.
He reaches the conclusion that installing heat pumps wherever possible could lessen U.S. demand for energy generation — renewable or otherwise — by almost 50%.
As heat pumps draw on geothermal and electric energy, they have the potential to greatly reduce the use of dirty fuels like gas to heat homes, allowing energy that would be used for that purpose to flow elsewhere.
Through some fancy graphs and tables, Barnard showcases just how much of our current energy demand heat pumps could, theoretically, meet and what that means for future renewable generation.
“About 80% of the energy requirements of a fully-electrified society with heat pumps everywhere possible already exist,” he boldly proclaims. “Electrification and heat pumps radically reduce the requirement to build new wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, and geothermal primary energy sources.”
If true, Barnard’s assertion is great news for the global transition to clean energy. The less large-scale clean energy infrastructure that needs to be built, the better, as political and monetary factors can complicate the completion of big projects.
Instead, it would be much easier for individuals and local communities to lead the charge on installing heat pumps, especially when doing so could save a homeowner as much as $1,200 a year.
Despite these efforts, Americans actually bought more heat pumps than gas furnaces in 2022. With the cost savings and environmental benefits of heat pump adoption, more and more homeowners are bound to install them.
Soon, the devices’ collective presence may lead to the new energy calculus that recently struck Barnard — one that is good for the environment, the economy, and society.
“So that’s the eureka moment I had that was so long delayed,” Barnard writes. “Heat pumps would actually drop energy service requirements substantially. Instead of having to replace all energy services, we only have to replace the portion of heat we can’t get from the environment for free.”
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