ICAST Experts Weigh In: What We Can Learn from Other Countries About Scaling Heat Pump Technology

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Jeff Hargis | ICAST Senior Technical Project Manager 

Mr. Hargis supports the organization by leveraging his expertise in energy efficiency, distributed energy resources, and project management to help drive ICAST’s green retrofit projects.  

Heat pumps for space and water heating are receiving growing attention in the U.S. as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing utility costs. More work is needed to convert that attention to meaningful adoption, but thankfully, other nations offer evidence that it can be done. For example, while just 11% of U.S. households have heat pumps, the technology is widespread in East and Southeast Asia. This is especially true in Japan and Taiwan, where heat pumps can be seen throughout many cities. In Japan, nearly 90% of households use heat pumps for HVAC, and though its population is less than half the size of the U.S.’s, it has nearly double the heat pump sales.

One important thing to consider is that manufacturing does not have to present a significant barrier. Heat pumps don’t contend with the same “growing pains” in mass-volume production that are faced by certain other technologies like EVs or home battery packs. We should also note that energy grids in other countries have absorbed a dramatic increase in heat pump use without requiring an overhaul, partly because the most recent generation of heat pump technology is so efficient.

Still, more cause for optimism—heat pumps had a record sales year in 2022, and for the first time, accounted for over half of heating system sales in the U.S. Additionally, while the upfront costs for heat pumps tend to be higher than for conventional tech, utility rebates can often offset these, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided tax credits and rebates that improve the financial case for these systems. IRA credits can cover 30% (with a $2,000 cap) for heat pumps and heat pump water heaters. The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s new, IRA-funded Home Energy Rebate programs will provide multifamily affordable housing (MFAH) up to $14,000 per apartment to install heat pump HVAC, water heaters, and induction stoves, and upgrade their electrical infrastructure.

Since 2015, ICAST has installed over 10,000 high-efficiency heat pump HVAC systems, and we are leveraging all possible opportunities to install more. We know from experience that heat pumps can be a benefit to our MFAH customers’ bottom line while improving home comfort, health, safety, and affordability for low-income tenants. Learn more about our efforts here

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