Residential air-source heat pumps (ASHP) offer a major opportunity for homes across the Northeast/ Mid-Atlantic region to reduce home heating energy consumption, costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and for States to meet energy policy goals to achieve all cost effective energy efficiency. This report characterizes that opportunity, identifies market barriers to the broad adoption of ASHP systems, and recommends near-term and long-term program, industry and policy strategies to realize the important potential for energy and cost savings as well as for avoided GHG emissions offered by home ASHP systems.
Residential ASHP are HVAC products that use electricity to provide space heating and, in many instances, space cooling to homes by extracting latent heat in ambient air from one location and transferring it to another. Recent advances in heat pump technology have improved ASHP performance levels, specifically under cold weather conditions, to the point that now, for the first time, ASHPs offer a legitimate space heating system alternative for the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region which is otherwise largely served by the traditional heating fuels of natural gas, oil and propane and electric resistance. Compared to the traditional heating systems, ASHP’s offer superior efficiency performance and provide both home heating and cooling through a single system.
Historically, ASHPs have been inadequate for home heating in the colder climates typical of the Northeast / Mid-Atlantic region. The key issue is that older, conventional ASHP’s do not have the capacity or efficiency to sufficiently perform during very cold weather, resulting in heavy reliance on inefficient backup resistance heating systems at freezing temperatures. However, today’s high efficiency, high performing ASHP systems (ductless “mini-split” systems being today’s most common configuration) can perform at a high level of efficiency even at very low ambient temperatures. As a result, new ASHP’s offer an exciting pathway to reduce home heating energy use and costs while reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions.