Heat pumps need to replace fossil-fired furnaces, boilers and water heaters at an unprecedented pace and scale to cut the carbon emissions from homes and buildings. The U.S. is still far from hitting those targets — but governors of states representing more than half the country have just pledged to push state policies to speed up that transition.
On Thursday, members of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group of 25 states, set a goal of installing 20 million heat pumps by 2030 — a target that will require quadrupling their current pace of installation. The announcement, made at a Climate Week NYC 2023 event.) in New York City, includes pledges to expand incentives to reduce the cost of switching from oil, gas and electric resistance heating systems, which are far less energy-efficient than heat pumps.
“Heat pumps are available and affordable, not to mention better for the air we breathe,” said Alliance co-chair and founding member Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington. About 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels inside buildings, and that combustion also creates air pollution harmful to human health. An additional 20 percent of U.S.-wide carbon emissions are tied to electricity use by buildings, including a significant portion used for inefficient electric resistance heating.
Heat pumps, which use electricity to move heat in and out of buildings, are about three times more efficient than resistance heaters and fossil-gas-fueled furnaces — and twice as efficient even in the coldest climates.
These advantages, along with existing state and federal incentive programs, have helped speed the adoption of the technology in the U.S.: Heat-pump sales outpaced those of gas furnaces for the first time last year. Still, heat pumps are used in only about 16 percent of about 140 million U.S. homes today, according to nonprofit advocacy group Rewiring America.