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You Can’t Hide From Heat Pumps

Posted on: Nov 13, 2023 by Cameron Prince
 You Can’t Hide From Heat Pumps

What do these three things have in common: self-cleaning door handles, UV light sterilizers for your phone and a wristband that vibrates when you are about to touch your face? Their popularity, and in some cases invention, soared after the COVID-19 pandemic stunned the world. There is no doubt that COVID-19 changed our behaviors, and things we never thought about before, like a self-cleaning door handle, suddenly became part of our purchasing decisions.

But do you believe the hype? I will admit, the first time that I saw a self-cleaning sticker attached to the door handle at work, my first thought was, “there is no way that actually works.” After some research on the technology, I quickly realized this magic was over my mechanically driven, must see it to believe it, brain and moved on, but of course I still touch the sticker part of the door handle, just in case.

There has been a similar in magnitude shift brewing in the HVAC and heating and cooling industry for quite some time, in both the residential and commercial spaces, with going green initiatives. We will continue to see changes to minimum efficiency requirements, refrigerants, and gas furnace phase downs, all in an effort by federal and state governments to decrease negative impacts on the environment.

But once again, I ask, do you believe the hype? The term “electrification” is an important going green initiative used to describe the conversion of systems that traditionally use fossil fuels as a heat source to those that use electric heat. This effort falls under the sustainability goals of many companies worldwide, and for some, “electrification” has become a loathed 15-letter word that is synonymous with political and corporate greed.

I will show my cards and tell you that I do believe the hype. I have prescribed to the notion that heat pumps should be a large part of our future, and not just because I am Allied’s heat pump product marketing manager. I also support air conditioners and evaporator coils, so give me a little grace. However, I certainly can recognize some of the perceived and real concerns that plague the heating and cooling industry with this conversion.

Customers want choices.

The removal of gas furnaces, a technology that has existed for over a century, from the heating and cooling industry would mean a much smaller set of choices. It would also mean we would be abandoning technology that is incredibly familiar to not only those selling and installing the equipment, but the homeowners buying the equipment as well.

We are taught the pitfalls of a monopoly early on in our lives through board games. So why would we want to subject ourselves to that when it comes to our heating and cooling choices? Like electric cars, the conversion from furnaces to heat pumps has not been immediate, and we still have plenty of transition to go; let’s wait and see what happens.

Is the technology ready?

I was born and raised in the Carolinas, so my only experience with true cold was a two-month training stint that took me to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the wintertime. People in the industry tend to know where I am from as soon as I tell them about my gravitation towards heat pumps and AHUs.

I have been informed that gas furnaces emit a different kind of heat than a heat pump. Yes, the air coming out of the register in a home with a heat pump will not feel as hot as that of a gas furnace. Also, it is difficult to remove heat from the outside air, a key design pillar of a heat pump, when the outdoor temperatures hit the negatives, which is why dual fuel (i.e., systems with a gas furnace and a heat pump) has become popular in recent years.

However, Lennox International, along with other OEMs, has accepted the US Department of Energy’s Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge to develop the next generation electric heat pump to support these colder, northern climates. This industry trend is here to stay.

How much is this going to cost?

The federal and state governments offer incentives, in the form of rebates throughout the channel, to offset the higher cost of a heat pump system. Staying on top of the available rebates and making sure a homeowner is aware of them is the key to success when discussing cost of a heat pump system.

The shift in how we think about HVAC and its impact on the environment has been changing for some time. Corporate sustainability goals can feel overhyped which can lead to cynicism throughout the channel for many reasons: the technology feels too good to be true, the message around the technology is too technical, and everyone seems to be on the bandwagon. We must keep these concerns in mind in the heating and cooling industry as we effectively navigate through these going green initiatives.