California has long been a leader in climate and energy issues. As such, it is no surprise that the state is now leading the way in pushing for new ways of heating that are more energy efficient and less harmful to the environment. While 90% of all homes in the US still use gas furnaces and water heaters, Californians are now being encouraged to switch to electricity to heat their homes and provide hot water. If everything goes to plan, most homes and businesses in the state will have conformed to the new requests within a few decades.
California’s New Energy Goals
California has set an ambitious goal to be 100% carbon neutral by 2045, and plans are already in place to help make this possible. In 2018, the state recently passed two critical pieces of legislation to make it easier to switch from gas to electric for space and water heating and find additional ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Senate Bill 1477 makes clean heating technologies more accessible by providing financial incentives for people that switch to electric heating. It will also increase the money available to train HVAC technicians in these new clean heating technologies.
Assembly Bill 3232 focuses on finding new ways to reduce the state’s total carbon emissions. This bill makes it the responsibility of the California Energy Commission to determine how by 2030, the state can reduce carbon emissions by at least 40% from what the levels were in 1990.
How Electric Heating Options Can Help Achieve These Goals
Researchers have shown that switching to electric and space heating will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 25% of the state’s total emissions come from homes, offices and other buildings. Of these emissions, more than half come from burning gas to heat buildings and provide hot water.
If even 1/3 of all buildings in the state switched to electric space and water heating by 2030, California could reduce carbon emissions by 7 million tons. The reduction would be the equivalent of taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road. When you consider that there are only 2.5 million registered cars in Los Angeles, you can quickly see what a significant difference it would make.
Why Heat Pumps Are the Future
Electric heat pumps are the future of heating in California, and many businesses have already begun adopting this technology. In addition, more and more homeowners are switching to heat pumps for several reasons, including heating and cooling from the same unit. This results in huge savings compared to purchasing separate heating and AC units.
Still, the biggest reason is that heat pumps use much less energy than any other heating system. Therefore, electric furnaces are a decent choice since, unlike gas furnaces, they don’t produce greenhouse emissions. The only issue is that electric furnaces still cost more since natural gas and propane are typically cheaper than electricity.
The best gas furnace will be up to 98.5% efficient, which means that 98.5% of the fuel it consumes produces heat energy. On the other hand, electric furnaces are always 100% efficient. Therefore, for every unit of electricity that the unit consumes, one unit of heat energy is produced.
Electric heat pumps can be as much as 300% efficient. A unit of electricity produces three units of heat due to the increased efficiency. No other type of heating system can even come close to matching this level of efficiency.
Understanding How Electric Heat Pumps Work
Electric heat pumps use the same heat transfer process that your air conditioner does to cool your home. There is zero difference between how a heat pump and central AC unit operate when cooling. Both work by using a refrigerant to remove heat from the building and transfer it outside. Heat energy always automatically flows into anything that is at a lower temperature. So, when the hot air inside your home meets the cold refrigerant in your AC system, the heat naturally flows to the refrigerant. As a result, the temperature decreases as the latent heat transfers outside.
The difference with a heat pump is that the refrigerant flow can reverse whenever the unit needs to provide heat. When heating, the cold refrigerant flows through the heat pump outside. Since the refrigerant is colder than the air temperature, any heat energy in the air is captured by the refrigerant. The introduction of heat increases the refrigerant’s temperature and turns it into a gas. The heat pump then increases the refrigerant pressure, raising its temperature.
The hot gas refrigerant is then pumped inside into the air handler. When the HVAC blower runs, it brings air into the ductwork and blows it over coils containing the hot refrigerant. Since the refrigerant is now warmer than the air, heat energy flows into the air to raise its temperature. The result is that the air coming out of the system is much warmer than the air being drawn in from the rest of the building.
Heat pumps can still provide some heating even in temperatures below 0 degrees. However, the efficiency and effectiveness decrease the colder the air temperature gets. They are the most efficient when the temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which is why they are an excellent choice for California and other places that experience milder winters. In colder climates, it is often necessary to supplement the heat pump with additional heating sources whenever the weather gets too cold.
Geothermal Heat Pumps
Most heat pumps are air sources, meaning they take heat from the air, as we just described. However, geothermal heat pumps also transfer heat energy to and from the ground. This type of system uses a series of refrigerant-filled pipes buried underground. The pipes are deep enough that the ground temperature remains constant at approximately 55 degrees all year round.
When cooling, the heat pump still removes heat from the air inside the building. This heat then automatically flows out of the refrigerant into the colder surrounding soil. As with air-source heat pumps, this process reverses when the unit is heating. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the ground, and the heat pump increases the refrigerant pressure and temperature, transferring the heat energy to the air inside the home.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce energy costs and carbon footprint, upgrading to a heat pump is the best option. At Temp Air System Inc., we specialize in heat pump installation and can help you choose which new unit is best for your home. We offer a range of highly efficient, Energy Star-rated heat pumps and other HVAC equipment. Our NATE-certified technicians also repair and maintain all models of heat pumps, central ACs, furnaces and other HVAC units. In addition, we are EPA-certified and have more than 20 years of experience providing exceptional heating and cooling services to customers in La Puente and throughout the Greater Los Angeles area. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the benefits of upgrading to a heat pump, give us a call today.