Project Drawdown, founded in 2014, is a nonprofit organization made up of scholars, scientists, advocates, and entrepreneurs from around the world who focus on finding solutions to the climate crisis to ensure that in the future, carbon emission rates slow down, plateau, and eventually begin to decline annually. This phenomenon, called drawdown, is supported by mapping, measuring, modeling, and communicating the variety of climate solutions that are currently available and accessible, but not widely adopted (yet).
Globally, the building sector uses roughly 1/3 of all energy generated. One-third of that number goes toward heating and cooling. In the United States, we use as much energy for air-conditioning alone as the continent of Africa uses for all their energy needs, and both domestic and global demand for air conditioned spaces continues to rise. Most of the energy used is generated by the combustion of fuels like natural gas, oil, propane, and coal.
On the flip side, heat pumps do not require direct combustion; they use electricity to move existing energy, saving your household energy and money. With geothermal specifically, the energy trapped underground is 100 billion times that of global energy consumption! Air-source heat pumps provide households with energy-bill savings of around $500 compared to electric resistance heaters and $1000 compared to oil-furnaces.
WITH GEOTHERMAL SPECIFICALLY, THE ENERGY TRAPPED UNDERGROUND IS 100 BILLION TIMES THAT OF GLOBAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION!
Heat pump technology has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 6 percent over the next 30 years, which is one of the largest contributions of any single technology in reducing atmospheric CO2 levels. Current adoption rates for heat pumps are low (more public education is needed!), but Project Drawdown estimates that by 2050, rates of adoption will be closer to 40-50%. While upfront costs can be high, over time these systems will become more affordable through reduction in equipment price and expansion of incentive programs.
Over time, these investments can save individuals both money on their energy bills, as well as the heating and cooling sector on operation and transportation costs for fuel combustion and use. For a cost of $77-$117 billion above what would be spent on conventional technologies, operating savings could reach $1.1-$2.5 trillion in our economy over the technology’s lifetime (for an air-source system it is 25 years and for a buried ground-source system it is 50 years on average). For local households this translates as higher upfront costs than replacing fossil fuels with fossil fuels, and considering their long life-spans and ability to provide heating, cooling, and hot water, heat pumps will pay for themselves over time through savings on your energy bills where conventional heating systems will not. Thankfully, there are also state and federal incentives for heat pump installation to lower costs for households.
HEAT PUMPS WILL PAY FOR THEMSELVES OVER TIME THROUGH SAVINGS ON YOUR ENERGY BILLS WHERE CONVENTIONAL HEATING SYSTEMS WILL NOT.
Heat pumps will continue to increase in efficiency and affordability via conjunction efforts such as district heating and cooling systems, solarized electricity, and optimizing building envelope efficiency.
Without the continuing growth of heat pump usage, we will continue to see accelerating levels of carbon emissions in the heating and cooling industry. Heat pump technologies are a substantial ally in the fight against climate change, and while initial barriers may not be easy to overcome for some, it will be increasingly more difficult to come out of the climate crisis the longer we wait to transition away from our use of fossil fuels.