- Chaz Teplin spent $30,000 to electrify his home and tracked what happened during the winter storm.
- Teplin estimated his home was 50% more energy efficient than a neighbor’s home with gas appliances.
- The Inflation Reduction Act should make it cheaper for homeowners to electrify their houses.
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The winter storm that blanketed much of the US in late December put Chaz Teplin’s green-home renovation to the test.
Teplin, a principal within the Carbon-Free Electricity program at the think tank RMI, electrified his 2,400-square-foot townhouse in Boulder, Colorado, last year by replacing a gas-powered air conditioner, furnace, and water heater with heat pumps. The upgrades required new electrical wiring for higher-voltage outlets. The total price tag: $30,000.
When temperatures dropped to -10 degrees Fahrenheit before Christmas in Boulder, Teplin monitored what happened on a smart electric panel.
“My system performed great! But did use lots of power,” he tweeted.
While most people won’t nerd out on heat pumps like Teplin — a climate hawk personally and professionally — the benefits of installing them are becoming hard to ignore. Shifts in policy and reputation are removing old barriers, such as high up-front costs and concerns that heat pumps won’t work during frigid weather, which limited their adoption to mostly warmer states.
Modern heat pumps can keep homes warm from snowy Colorado to chilly Maine and come with a fail-safe known as electric-resistance heating. Despite the name, heat pumps both warm and cool a home by circulating heat from indoors to outdoors and back again. Moving heat is more energy efficient than making heat like a furnace does.
The efficiency means homeowners can save hundreds of dollars each year on their utility bills and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by burning fewer fossil fuels. According to a study by the nonprofit Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, models designed for colder areas in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the country saved homeowners around $948 a year compared with fuel-oil systems.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which became law last summer, authorized a rebate program for low- and medium-income households to claim up to $8,000 toward heat pumps for heating and cooling, and up to $1,750 for a water heater. States expect to roll out rebates later this year. The law also includes tax credits of up to $2,000 for homeowners of any income level. A tool built by Rewiring America, an electrification-advocacy group, shows what people might qualify for.
“My advice is don’t wait, especially if you have an old gas furnace or air conditioner,” Teplin told Insider. “Research contractors that are familiar with heat pumps.”
If homeowners wait until existing appliances fail, it will be a mad dash to replace them, and heat pumps aren’t the default choice for many contractors, Teplin said.
After the winter storm, Teplin said he compared notes with a neighbor who has a gas-powered system. Teplin and his neighbor estimated the heat pumps operated with about 50% more energy efficiency on the coldest days.
Even though Colorado’s electricity supply isn’t 100% renewable today, a heat pump is still more climate friendly because it uses less energy. Colorado is aiming for a completely renewable power grid by 2040.
Teplin said a mix of coal, gas, wind, and solar all provided his electricity during the storm, but he can see a future where renewables and battery storage could meet all the demand.