Heat pump

When outside temperatures drop to 10 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it feels cold. But there’s still heat in that air that can be extracted and used to warm homes.

The device used to do this is called an air source heat pump.

Chris Carrick is with the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board. He says the basic technology is nothing new.

“Heat pumps have been around for decades,” he says, “and they’re fairly common down South.”

But until recently, they did not work well when outside temperatures dropped below freezing, so they were not used in colder climates. But that’s changing as air source heat pumps become more efficient.

“These new cold climate air source heat pumps are functional down to -10, -15 degrees,” Carrick says.

And they run on electricity, so they generate heat without burning oil, natural gas or other fuels on site.

According to a report by the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, switching to heat pumps could dramatically reduce the carbon pollution caused by home heating. They have the most impact in places with renewable electricity.

So heat pumps could be a way to keep homes warm while producing much less global warming pollution.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.