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Heat Pumps in Washington State

heat pump in front of home

Washington State has some of the most aggressive legislation in the country when it comes to transferring energy production away from fossil fuels to renewable resources. The goal is for the transition to be complete by 2045, by when power companies are obligated to send only non-emitting electricity out to the grid. The State will eliminate coal power – including “coal-by-wire” electricity that’s produced out of state using coal – in just another two years, by 2025.

These goals are motivated by environmental concerns and the desire of the legislature to curb emissions from power plants and other emission sources.

As you probably know, a little more than half of the state’s power is already produced by hydroelectric dams – non-emitting energy generators. So far, the state has avoided outright bans on fossil energy sources such as natural gas and oil. Instead, legislators are trying to make non-emitting energy sources and high-efficiency appliances more attractive to private consumers and commercial builders.

Last year, the State Building Code changed to require electric heat pumps for hot water and heating in new residential construction. The Washington State Building Code Council intended for the same change to apply to commercial construction starting this summer, but a coalition of more than a dozen building industry groups, homeowners, HVAC installers, and the Pacific Propane Gas Association filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court attempting to block that change. The plaintiffs claim that the new regulations would eliminate natural gas and propane use in private homes, lead to the loss of many living-wage, local jobs, and severely limit consumers’ energy choices.

While the lawsuit rumbles its way through the judiciary system, one thing is very clear: heat pumps are here to stay. The proposed state budget includes roughly $115 million stimulus for heat pumps and other high-efficiency electric appliances, and the federal Inflation Reduction Act includes deep rebates and tax incentives for switching to heat pumps and all-electric homes.

If you look at the housing inventory in Spokane, we have an abundance of beautiful century-old homes and buildings that lack modern ductwork – they are the perfect candidates for heat pump installation. So are your 1970s California split-levels that are often built with electrical heat.

Modern heat pumps are quiet and very efficient. They heat your home in the winter and cool it down in the summer. They work great during a cold winter, like the one we just went through, and if we face another hot and smoky summer, they are quieter and more efficient at cooling your house down than a traditional air-conditioning unit.

But wait, you say, heat pumps use power, so what’s the difference?

From a power and emission savings standpoint, efficiency is attractive. A heat pump transfers more than 300 times as much energy as it consumes. Compare that to a modern gas furnace which is about 95 percent efficient. If you have electrical heat, you will still see significant savings on your power bill if you install a heat pump.

Now, if you want to get close to energy independence, add some solar panels and a strong battery backup system to your property and you will be able to heat and cool your place no matter what mother nature throws at us.

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