Hotter days are upon us, and, as I sit in my house, I’m wondering what you recommend for air conditioning. And, for that matter, heating! My utility bills last winter were higher than I’ve ever seen them. I have a gas furnace … are there any other options? Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about energy efficiency and how to make my home as environmentally friendly as possible, as well as safe, clean, and healthy for me and my family. Are there any changes I could make to lower my utility bill and make my home more energy efficient?
First of all, it’s great that you’re asking these questions before your gas furnace breaks, or before a heat wave comes. It can take time to make your home more energy efficient — the sooner the better to think about these choices.
I recommend a heat pump! It checks all your boxes — better for the environment, more efficient, and, while it has a potentially expensive start-up cost (but keep reading for financial incentives to make the switch!), in the long run, it cools and heats your house much more efficiently than gas.
There are a couple kinds of heat pumps, but the most popular in Whatcom County by far is the air source heat pump. This heat pump uses electricity to transfer heat from one space to another. Using refrigerant and a reversing valve, it can transfer, cool or heat, and distribute air from one space to another — outside to inside, for example. When it’s “cooling” your home, it’s functionally similar to an air conditioner, but, because of that nifty reversing valve, it can also heat your home during the cooler months.
Heat pumps create cleaner air in your house, don’t require the burning of fossil fuels, and keep your energy bill low. They also heat or cool your house more efficiently than any other technology currently available.
Since they improve indoor air quality, heat pumps are a great option for the summer in addition to the winter, since our summers are increasingly hot and smoky. You don’t necessarily want to open your windows to circulate smoky air, which is why having a cooling system like a heat pump is even more important.
Now let’s talk about the cost. Heating pumps are more energy efficient alternatives to gas, definitely — and overall it can be more affordable to run. But a new heat pump and installation isn’t cheap.
That’s where financial incentives come in. Sustainable Connections’ Energy and Green Building Program is dedicated to helping households and businesses make the switch to more energy efficient technologies. Check out their program The Community Energy Challenge — it makes achieving energy efficiency as easy as possible from start to finish. They provide each participating household or business with quality information, a full energy assessment, a customized energy action plan detailing cost-effective measures, assistance with utility and tax rebates, reliable contractors, and quality assurance. And, that covers heat pumps, as well!
There are tax credits and rebates from the Inflation Reduction Act available to make the switch to electrification as well as assistance programs for low- and moderate-income households.
What’s the next step for you, homeowner? Check out the Community Energy Challenge https://sustainableconnections.org/community-energy-challenge/ or contact an HVAC professional about what it will take to switch your home to a heat pump.
Good luck! Hope you stay cool (or hot, depending on the season) out there.