Benefits of heat pumps for Southwest homes: Arizona edition

June 20, 2022 | Neil Kolwey

If you are looking for a way to reduce your personal contributions to carbon emissions, a good place to start is switching to an efficient electric heat pump to heat and cool your home. For Arizonans, this also reduces the home’s annual heating costs by about 40%.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project  just released an updated study of the benefits of heat pumps and heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) for Southwest homes, about 65% of which currently use gas for heating. Gas prices have increased significantly in the last six months, and as a result heat pumps and HPWHs are now much more cost-effective than they were one or two years ago. In addition, heat pump and HPWH performance and availability have continued to improve.

For homes heated with gas, a practical option is to replace the central air-conditioner (AC) (for homes that have one) with a heat pump, when the AC needs to be replaced. Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, eliminating the need for a separate AC system, and replacing gas heating, which will reduce the Arizona homeowner’s annual heating costs by 40%. Another practical option is to add a mini-split heat pump to any new additions.

The largest electric utilities in Arizona have goals and plans to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity generation by 2030. Because of these plans, switching to efficient electric heating reduces homes’ carbon impacts significantly. By installing an efficient heat pump and replacing the gas furnace, the Arizona home’s GHG emissions from heating will be reduced by about 60% over the next 15 years (the life of the heat pump).

The benefits of heat pumps also apply to new homes. In addition, if the home is built with all-electric appliances, there are additional benefits. Eliminating the gas piping to the home reduces initial costs; and with no fixed charges on monthly gas bills, annual energy costs are further reduced. The net result is the all-electric home in Arizona costs less to build and operate over a 15-year period than a typical home with gas appliances. In addition, electric cooking will improve the indoor air quality and safety of the home compared to gas cooking, which leaks methane and emits other harmful pollutants. 

With growing awareness of these efficient electric technologies and increasing support from utilities and local governments, Arizona’s homes can become healthier and safer, with much lower carbon emissions.