Emerging Energy Economy

The Thing About Heat Pumps…

It would be very big news if North Americans could buy a mid-sized hybrid gas/electric car that got 150 mpg and used but a few dollars in electricity to provide for our daily transportation needs with a purchase price accessible to mid to low budget house holds.

Heat pumps are a home heating solution that have these dramatic efficiencies, and are available, at an accessible purchase price, in the marketplace today. Many households are scrambling to find room in their budgets for this year’s increase of $500 to $2000 dollars in heating costs, often opting to live with the stress of cold rooms and an uncertain energy future. The promise of unlimited cheap solar heat energy is realizable today as a heat pump captures free atmospheric heat and moves it into the home for about $30 a month!

We all have experienced passive solar heating of our homes during the summer: as the temperature rises and the house traps heat, rooms become uncomfortable. What we may not know is that the sun is constantly heating the air around us, even on very cold days. It is this heat energy that is freely available and in sufficient amounts to provide 80% of the heating loads here on the west coast. Heat Pumps use refrigeration technology to capture this heat, as refrigerant will boil at temperatures well below 0°c. In doing so, very large amounts of the sun’s stored heat is pulled into the refrigerant and made available for easy transporting into the house via refrigerant lines. The amount of heat that a heat pump can capture is truly amazing and reflected in the average efficiency ratings of around 250%, compared to the low 70 to 99% ratings of oil and natural gas furnaces. A heat pump uses only the energy of 3 small electric motors to capture and move this freely available solar heat.

Heat Pump technology has matured to the point where any home with ducting and a furnace can install a unit at a very reasonable price with a pay back period of 3 to 7 years. The low installation costs and dramatic efficiencies of air source heat pumps will see a very large percentage of the lower main land and Vancouver Island adopt this technology as the home heating standard in the coming years.

This is happening as the public is learning and understanding the thing about heat pumps: that we are surrounded by free, unlimited, renewable solar, wind, tidal, and wave energy, that can liberate us from our addictions to a very troubled and expensive fossil fuel economy. Heat pumps are a forward-looking technology, with their low hydro electricity demands being supplied by the above mentioned future green hydro generation. These all provide renewable electricity, and can complete the low cost, low pollution promise of green energy. Heat pump technology has been estimated to have the potential to reduce global green house gas emissions by a staggering 6%, when used to its full potential. This is amazing for just one technology!

While we are all still waiting for the auto makers and energy companies to get on with a viable green transportation solution, the solution for cheap, renewable home heating is already here. The timing for heat pumps and other solutions could not be better, as the party is over for an unlimited cheap oil based economy. The sooner we adapt to this reality the better, and information is a good place to start. There are exciting options to address our energy challenges, and heat pumps, while currently below the public’s radar, need to be considered and used to harvest the sun’s considerable bounty.

Darren Knorr is a marketing consultant for projects with heart. He can be reached via Tel: 714-2727, or email: darknorr@yahoo.ca