June 20, 2022 | Neil Kolwey
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 in Las Vegas and southern Nevada, heat pumps will reduce annual heating costs by about 30% compared to heating with gas, saving homeowners more than $100 per year. For homes in Reno and northern Nevada, annual heating costs with a heat pump are about the same as with gas heating. However, because of the increasing amounts of renewable generation being added to Nevada’s grid, switching to heat pumps will reduce Nevada homes’ carbon emissions by 50-60%. In the colder areas of Nevada such as Reno, installing an efficient electric heat pump would have a similar impact to switching a gasoline-powered car or truck to an electric vehicle.
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 displacing gas heating. Another practical option is to add a mini-split heat pump to any new additions.
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 costs less to build and operate over a 15-year period than a typical home with gas appliances, even in Reno. 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, Nevada’s homes can become healthier and safer, with much lower carbon emissions.