Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are Heat Pumps Green?

By Dan Morrison

An article in the Home and Garden section of the New York Times "Time to Worry About Heat Bills" By JAY ROMANO (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/garden/24fix.html?emc=tnt&tntemail1=y) talks about a winter heating option that will save you money: electric heat pumps. With the price of gas and oil skyrocketing, the article reasons, an electric heat pump will be a money saver this winter and eventually end up "paying for itself."

But is it green?
Not if you're getting your electricity from the grid.
  • Coal plants have an efficiency of about 31%; put another way, almost 70% of the energy contained in a lump of coal is lost as heat when it's burned at a coal plant.
  • And along with that heat, tons of carbon dioxide are dumped into the atmosphere when the lump of coal is burned.
  • And strip mining for lumps of coal leaves a mighty big footprint on the land.

I sure wish I could convince Henry Gifford to let me publish his manuscript on why heat pumps are not such a great idea.

--Dan Morrison is managing editor of GreenBuildingAdvisor.com

1 comment:

Michael said...

I think it was Amory Lovins who said that heating water with electricity is like cutting butter with a chainsaw and the sentiment applies to heating homes with electric heat pumps. But there is still a place for heat pumps in my homes that are primarily passive solar with serious insulation and solar/propane radiant heat in the floors.

They provide a great back-up heat source that also can provide air conditioning and dehumidification. It's the two in one functionality that makes them work in my homes.