The Feb. 9, El Defensor Chieftain, lead article: Home Heating on the Rise; was a great article, that clearly illustrates the uncertainties of fossil fuels. A 260 percent increase over last year’s cost of methane (natural) gas. That’s why the oil/gas producers are enjoying record profits, while we’re struggling to stay warm. Fortunately, technical advances have now given us an economical option. It’s an air conditioner. That’s reversible. It’s called a heat pump.
An air to air heat pump uses a compressor to transfer heat, either from inside your house in the summer, to release outside, i.e., an air conditioner, or in reverse, transfers heat from the cold outside air to heat your house inside. Since the electricity is used to run a compressor, not as direct heat, at 30°F or above it’s a four or five times energy efficiency advantage. As the temperature outside drops to say 5°F below zero, the heat pump can still extract heat from the outside air to transfer into heating your house, but its efficiency drops to 1 to 1 or the same as an electric baseboard heater. But how often is the temperature less than 10°F above zero? Not often. Most of the winter the temperature is 20°F or above, and a heat pump shines. In fact, a heat pump saves 60 percent of the heating cost of propane or electric baseboard.
As previously stated, a heat pump is an air conditioner in the summer, except an energy efficient one. Since it’s a closed system, it’s not pulling outside air into the house, i.e. wildfire smoke, or adding humidity into a house, as does a swamp cooler. So, no need to crack windows.
Since the heat pump is so energy efficient, the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRA, has a 30 percent rebate of up to $2,000 for heat pumps, mini-splits, and upgrading your electric panel if needed. Also, the state of New Mexico has a $1,000 credit, and Tri-State, (Socorro Co-op), also has an $1,800 credit, so a total of $4,800 can be used as credit against a new air to air heat pump system.
A mini-split is a small heat pump that’s outside, with refrigerant lines that run through a 2 1/2 inch sealed hole in an exterior wall to a 3 foot wide by 12 inch high by 10 inch deep, inside, quiet, blower unit that distributes the heated or cooled air. A mini-split is easy to install, reasonably priced, so a great option, especially if adding onto your home.
But the main reason to switch to a heat pump is to stabilize your utility bill. To have a cleaner, safer home, where you don’t have to worry about gas leaks, or carbon dioxide poisoning. Keep in mind, if you’re using a gas cook stove, and not turning on the overhead vent fan, the indoor air quality impacts equal one adult smoker in your home. An induction stove top is a much better option and also qualifies for an IRA credit.
Heat pumps also enable you to take advantage of powering your home with solar panels to further help stabilize your future utility bills. But that’s another discussion.
Ward B McCartney.III