Why heaters are the future of cooling

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A huge number of people still heat their homes with fossil fuels. There’s a better way.

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Experts call it the “cold crunch.” As temperatures rise in regions that historically haven’t needed indoor cooling, global demand for air conditioning units is expected to skyrocket. Indoor cooling is already the fastest-growing use of energy in buildings. But the emissions associated with cooling buildings are still tiny compared to the emissions from heating them — and that’s because while air conditioning uses electricity, our heat is still largely generated by burning fossil fuels.

The way we heat our homes and buildings is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. But a solution may actually come from the rush of consumers looking to buy AC for the first time. They’re a huge potential market for a different kind of system — the electric heat pump. A heat pump works like a two-way air conditioner, using electricity and a chemical refrigerant to transfer heat either into or out of a building. Instead of using fossil fuels to generate heat, it uses electricity to transfer heat, and it does it efficiently. And if heat pumps are widely adopted, they could make a major impact on the carbon emissions generated by buildings.

Further reading:

This report from the International Energy Agency is a great visual look at how the rising demand for space cooling presents buildings with a big opportunity to make their heating systems more efficient:
https://www.iea.org/commentaries/is-cooling-the-future-of-heating

Check out Rebecca Leber’s reporting on another big air conditioning challenge — regulating the refrigerants that contribute to global warming:
https://www.vox.com/22638093/air-conditioning-worsens-climate-change-ac

And read the Carbon Switch report on heat pumps, which breaks down how much homeowners in each state can save by switching to heat pumps: https://carbonswitch.co/heat-pump-carbon-reduction-and-savings-potential-report

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Comments

Vox says:

Some of you have pointed out that Technology Connections also has a video on electric heat pumps! Alec actually has two, the first of which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/7J52mDjZzto

His videos go much more in-depth about how heat pump technology actually works. Our goal was more to explain the connection between two separate climate stories: the booming need for home cooling, and the opportunity that presents to drastically cut our heating emissions. Both stories have a lot more to them than what we could get into in this video, which we hope is just a starting point!

Dylan Humphries says:

Y’all have obviously never been to Florida USA. We sell 1,000s of them a year.

Jo Brown says:

Confused in souther n Western Australian

arctic 1878 says:

Revolutionary device, the heat pump??? I've had a heat pump for 12 years, and it wasn't even a new thing in Norway when I got it lol. It's super common here!

Matt Hughes says:

Which this would get pushed more. I was in my house two months when my 5T AC died. No contractor even suggested replacing it with AC/Heat Pump. Two years later I had to have my gas furnace replaced. I did buy the most efficient one on the market but the difference between one heat pump vs an AC + furnace was blindingly obvious after the fact.

Renaud Sourmail says:

yeah the heat pump is interesting, but only with clean electricity. i'm not convinced by the conclusion "build more solar farms, wind farms"… These technologies are not efficient enough to replace regular power plants… They re not driveable and not powerful enough…

batmaurer says:

Heat pumps are literally the most well named thing. It’s pumping heat. No brainer of a name.

Ivan Malenica says:

Heat pumps are not revolutionary, they are common thing here in Croatia for like 25 years, almost every home has it. And here it is not that expensive, and every year it becomes better and more energy efficiant. I really thing it is the future of cooling and heating.

Rick Quek says:

Thanks for promoting heat pump (or what industry called two way AC), this product has been in market for such a long time but due to pre war building limitations like places in EU applications has been limited.
These high historical valued buildings still using radiator (with boilers) due to existing pipelines which are difficult to replace.

Hence, Air To water came in place to replace boilers.
You may explore how industry has evolved.

Jennah Mirrim says:

The heat pumps work really well to both heat and cool. In Nova Scotia, Canada they are being installed in homes and businesses with incentives from our government. Youtube is giving tons of ads about installing them. They work. They are easy to use. if you are thinking about getting one. Do it.

derkhaslol says:

People say in the comments that heat pumps and air conditioning are the same product. It isn´t, the outside (on the roof/wall) is the same unit but the inside has a different one. That´s what truly is the heat pump and that can replace your gas boiler/heater. A normal airconditioner can´t.

derkhaslol says:

5:05 The Netherlands
5:11 Germany

Patrick Paulson says:

How about we all stop eating meat.

WOWOMBO COCOMBO says:

1) heat pumps consume a way lot more energy than a radiator for the same amount of heating.
2) heating devices normally are placed on ground level, so hot air goes up and creates a flow in the room that increases room heating.
If you put it where the AC device is usually placed, hot air stays in the ceiling and doesnt heat the room.

Seriously just buy and electric radiator. Those with a closed circuit of oil inside are very good.

Kohl3 P3T3R50N says:

Your missing a bit of Canada there mate

Ben Gove says:

lol yup. tried to buy an AC unit in Seattle…..

goobygoober45 says:

Well uh, those are mini split heat pumps, not good for your entire house… Having a traditional heat pump and air handler in the basement or attic with a duct system would be better for your entire house

Connor Cruz says:

HVAC/R technician here, the one downside inherent with air-to-air heat pumps is that as the outdoor temperature drops, they're SEER rating falls off a cliff. The colder it is outside the less effective they are.

Will Compton says:

heat pumps are great. I live in New Zealand and I barely see air conditioning, everybody either has heat pumps or you just open all your windows and get cooled by the breeze.

Ventil says:

Isn't that a ductless mini split ac?

jking says:

The planet is not warming

Pablo Navarro says:

Nowadays all the new mini splits are nothing but problems. A lot of premature circuit board failures, also you’re running the compressor on both heating and cooling so you’re putting double the wear on it. I’ve seen some these go out sooner than they should

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