Heat Pumps Slash Energy Usage

Heat pumps are the cheapest, cleanest, and most energy-efficient way to heat and cool homes — making them a disinformation target

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Every Monday, in “Climate on the Ballot,” we pass along a topic to help you integrate climate into your newsroom’s campaign reporting. Consider sharing this newsletter with your colleagues on the politics beat. Vea la versión en español de “El clima en la boleta.”

This Week: Heat Pumps

Residential energy use is responsible for roughly 21% of all energy consumption and 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Enter: heat pumps. For two years running, heat pumps have outsold gas furnaces in the US, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re the cheapest, cleanest, and most energy-efficient appliance to cut energy usage at home. And despite the kind of lackluster name, the technology is ingenious: Heat pumps draw heat from the air and circulate it through the machine to regulate temperatures, and they’re powered by electricity. The International Energy Agency calls heat pumps “the central technology in the global transition to secure and sustainable heating.”

Reporting Ideas

  • Report on your state’s heat-pump pledge. Twenty-four governors representing approximately 55% of Americans are members of the US Climate Alliance, a climate coalition launched after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement. The coalition continues making big strides, including pledging to quadruple heat pump installations by 2030. Is your state part of the coalition? Ask candidates why or why not.
  • Follow the disinformation. As with many other climate solutions, myths and outright disinformation are being spread about heat pumps. In New England, industry groups have funded anti-electrification campaigns aimed at homeowners and realtors. In New York City, a front group called New Yorkers for Affordable Energy created ads misinforming the public about the costs of clean energy solutions.
  • Who’s buying heat pumps in your area? Early adopters of most green technologies, especially EVs and residential solar panels, are typically people with higher incomes. Not so with heat pumps, which are having a “surprisingly equitable moment.” Unlike subsidies for EVs and solar panels, heat pump subsidies are much more likely to be widely distributed across all income levels. Help audiences understand how to access government tax credits provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, and interview people in your state about their heat pumps.
  • How are states incentivizing heat pump adoption? Heat pump adoption is highest in the warmer southeastern states. But with recent advances in technology, colder states like Maine and Colorado are catching up. Nine states are “basically begging” residents to get heat pumps with new incentives. Ask candidates about their plans to accelerate heat pump adoption.

Take Inspiration

  • What would happen if every home in America installed a heat pump? Wired dug in: “It could slash the emissions in the residential sector by a staggering 36 to 64%, and cut overall US emissions by 5 to 9%.” And because heat pumps can heat and cool, they could “also improve public health during the summer.”
  • THE CITY details how the New York City Housing Authority began replacing steam heat radiators with electrified heat pumps in public housing complexes last summer, replacing greenhouse gas–emitting air-conditioning and boilers. New York governor Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams announced a $70 million program that aims to install 30,000 units, the New York Daily News reported.
  • Maine is arguably leading the heat pump transition, The New York Times reported. Last year, the state surpassed its goal to install 100,000 heat pumps by 2025 and set a new target of 275,000 by 2027, the Press Herald explained. Last month, Maine received $10 million from the Energy Department to install heat pumps in 675 mobile homes in the state, Maine Public reported.
  • In Philadelphia, a new green job program trains future workers to weatherize homes, and to install, maintain, and fix heat pumps. WHYY writes that “the program aims to not only train workers to electrify Philly homes, but help Philadelphians access jobs that pay well.”

Spotlight Piece

“When they write the book on the downfall of liberal democracy, will it begin with the heat pumps?” asks Politico’s Karl Mathiesen in this report for a series on how European far-right parties are weaponizing the green transition to win elections. Mathiesen details how the far-right Alternative for Germany party has “woven climate change policy alongside migration… into its grand narrative of decay, elitism, and rage.”

Want to share feedback and stories inspired by this newsletter? Shoot us a note at editors@coveringclimatenow.org.