A new technology that both warms your home in winter,
and cools in summer.
August 1, 2014 by Stewart Ledbetter
Until you see one, it’s a little hard to believe. Though heat pumps have been used for years in Europe and southern states for air conditioning, these new ones effectively work in reverse in regions like ours when it is freezing outside. They run on electricity so efficient they can be as cheap as heating with wood.
Zech Gardner is showing us around his new house. It’s on a hillside in Charlotte about 2200 square feet or so and aside from a tiny woodstove in the living room, the home relies exclusively on heat pump technology.
Remember how cold it was last winter? “Total through the whole winter, we spent $356 on electric heat and we used a little bit more than a cord of wood which cost me about $180,” says Gardner, “So, $500 to heat the house for the winter.”
Now it’s true the Gardner’s home is very well insulated with triple-paned windows, but it also reflects the ultra high efficiency of this new heat pump technology.
One unit mounted high on the wall in the living room connects to an air exchanger outside the size of a big suitcase providing the same efficiency to heat or cool your home year round.
But, you don’t need a brand new house or even a very efficient one to benefit from heat pump technology. The state’s largest electric utility and environmental groups are urging homeowners of every stripe to give this a look.
Air source heat pumps cost between $3500 and $4500 each, including installation. Some homes might need more than one. “A heat pump costs about 1/3 to heat your home in the winter of what you’d be spending on oil or propane. One third,” says Clary Franko, Lead Organizer at SunCommon.
Advocates point out that heat pumps pair well with solar, which the Gardners just added to their roof a month ago. That brought this month’s electric bill to zero. A big change from the old farmhouse the Gardners used to live in across town.
“So the winter before we lived here, I spent over $3500 in oil plus three cords of wood to heat that house,” says Gardner. “This house is definitely more comfortable in the winter than that house was.”