Developer of Reno apartment complex reduces pollution by choosing heat pumps over gas

March 25, 2021 | Tom Polikalas

There’s a critical need for additional housing in northern Nevada as the area sees rapid job growth associated with economic diversification. Charles Bluth, an entrepreneur who since 1969 has specialized in land acquisition and developments in California, Nevada, and Arizona, has helped respond to the local demand for multi-family housing with his 768-unit project, The Lakes at Lemmon Valley. 

This project notably avoids natural gas for space and water heating and cooking. Instead of fossil fuel combustion providing these essentials, apartments at The Lakes at Lemmon Valley have highly efficient Samsung heat pumps in each unit that provide space heating in winter as well as air-conditioning in the summer. Electric heat pumps, electric water heaters, and electric stoves in each apartment together eliminate the need for gas infrastructure. The project saved more than $1 million in costs by avoiding the backbone gas pipeline and piping costs to each apartment.  

“Residents will benefit from better indoor air quality by avoiding cooking with gas,” says Neil Kolwey, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project’s Industrial Program Director. “In addition, their annual heating costs and utility bills will be slightly lower.” 

Developments such as The Lakes at Lemmon Valley align with the recently released Nevada State Climate Strategy in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, supporting municipal resiliency and future proofing, and helping residents and owners avoid costly upgrades as the environment changes.

The apartment complex supports healthy indoor air, as explained in greater detail in a recent report titled, “Health effects from gas stove pollution,” published by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Sierra Club. The report notes that combustion emissions from the building sector now contribute to the largest share (37%) of premature deaths associated with air pollution, compared to other sectors like transport, industry, and power generation. The impact on human health is significant. 

“We commend The Lakes at Lemmon Valley for their use of heat pumps and their contribution to better air quality for Reno and Washoe County,” said Kolwey. “This is the largest such development in Nevada that I’m aware of that has eliminated the need for natural gas in an apartment complex. They set a great example for other builders and developers by reducing GHG emissions using cost-effective technology.” 

Kolwey estimates that the heat pumps used in The Lakes at Lemmon Valley will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 45% compared to comparable apartments using gas furnaces (“Benefits of heat pumps for homes in the Southwest”). Reduction of CO2 is important to both the City of Reno’s Sustainability Plan and Nevada’s climate. In addition, surveys are showing high satisfaction between consumers and heat pumps. 

“The CO2 reduction benefits of heat pumps versus natural gas will grow over the years as NV Energy increases its use of renewable energy because of the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard passed by Nevada’s legislature and signed into law by Governor Sisolak in 2019,” says Kolwey.  

“I had a great personal experience staying at a hotel that uses heat pumps. They provide quiet comfort, so I explored their economics, which I found very attractive,” says Bluth. “I’m pleased that they provide our residents with better air quality and also contribute to carbon reductions, but I made the decision to use them in this project because they’re cost-effective and a sound investment.”

Builders saving money, residents and renters having cleaner air to breathe, CO2 being reduced — The Lakes at Lemmon Valley demonstrates that it’s high time we pump up awareness of heat pumps and their benefits.