Study explores many facets of heat pumps versus natural gas debate
As the HVAC industry gallops toward replacing natural gas heating with electrification, a July 2021 research report by IOP Publishing found that 32% of homes in the United States would benefit economically from installing HVAC. an electric heat pump, and 70% of US homes could reduce what the authors describe as “emissions-related damage” by installing a heat pump.
The report is very timely, more so now than when it was originally published, due to the increased movement towards electrification now being seen in the heating and cooling industry.
In the report, authors Thomas A. Deetjen, Liam Walsh, and Parth Vaishnav describe how the potential for heat pump adoption varies with power grids, climate, base heating fuel costs, and building characteristics. lodging. They use these findings to identify strategic, technological, and policy insights to drive high heat pump adoption rates and deep electrification of the residential heating sector in the United States, which they believe reduces CO2 emissions and the impacts of climate change.
The heat pump installation costs were calculated using a coefficient of $143.30 kW of capacity in all cases, plus a fixed cost that varies from $3300 to $4800.
The authors are supportive of electrification and accept climate change as fact, but they provide plenty of evidence on both sides of the gas versus electrification debate and do not shy away from arguments against residential heat pumps. They comment on what they believe to be failures of past research related to the power grid, housing stock diversity, and climates.
“By answering these questions, this analysis fills a gap in research that fails to understand the full implications of high heat pump adoption rates. Addressing this research gap advances our understanding of the potential for heat pump adoption and the challenges that inhibit higher adoption rates. It helps identify where to focus current efforts to encourage heat pump adoption: both in terms of geographic location and building characteristics. It also helps us develop projections of how new policies and innovations might alter the balance of benefits and costs of electrifying heating. »
The authors used a 5-step approach to their research:
1. Simulation of residential energy consumption, using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s ResStock tool to create a virtual stock of 400 homes for each of 55 cities.
2. Publicly available data to quantify the energy cost, health damage and CO of these consumption profiles2 emissions.
3. Calculations of private and public actual net value (VAN) which results from the adoption of a heat pump by each household. For each simulated house, replace the existing heating technology with an air-source heat pump.
4. Quantify the percentage of housing stock that would benefit from adopting a heat pump.
5. Use hourly house electrical profiles to quantify the impact of heat pump adoption on peak electricity demand.
heat pump installation costs were calculated using a coefficient of $143.30 kW of capacity in all cases, plus a fixed cost that varies from $3300 to $4800.
Among the authors’ concluding comments:
- Heat pump adoption generates a net economic benefit for 21% of single-family homes in the United States. Including homes with existing heat pumps, this equates to a total adoption rate of 32%.
- From a public welfare perspective, the combined climate and health net present value of heat pump adoption is positive for 70% of the non-heat pump housing stock in the United States. This rate may decrease when considering the cost of hardening the electricity grid to meet increased peak electricity demand: a consequence that many cities will experience.