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Switch from cooling-only AC to heat pumps could save $13.6bn

USA: A new report suggests that the US could cut 67Mt of CO2 emissions if all 53.8 million households currently using cooling-only air conditioners switched to heat pumps.

The report publishers CLASP (Collaborative Labelling and Appliance Standards Programme), an international nonprofit organisation promoting increased energy efficiency standards, claims that this would also reduce national heating bills by $13.6bn annually.

“Every six seconds a new residential furnace or air conditioner starts up in the US, meaning homes lose out on the opportunity to decarbonize until the product is ready to be replaced – likely not until 2035-2040,” the report says.

It argues that two-way heat pumps offer a reliable, cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional air conditioners, enhancing energy security and reducing fossil fuel consumption. CLASP proposes that households would keep their legacy heat system in place, using it to supplement the heat pump at lower temperatures. 

Natural gas is currently the most common form of household heating in the US with 33 million hybrid heat pump installation opportunities, and significant emission reductions of 32MtCO2e. 

Electric resistance is the next most common, offering 16 million hybrid heat pump installation opportunities and 29MtCO2 in emissions reductions. In addition, CLASP argues that swapping heat pumps into electric resistance homes could conservatively save around $555 per year – a significant saving for the low income households where this form of heating is most prevalent. 

The report recommends that states should revise energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) to be fuel neutral implement appliance standards that require ACs to have two-way operation. 

In addition, it says utilities should phase out incentives for one-way (cooling-only) air conditioners and provide heat pump incentives instead, with public utility commissions and utilities providing on- and off-bill financing to consumers. Cities and counties, too, should require AC to heat pump conversions through building codes and other local ordinances. 

The report is available here.

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