Green Potential of Air Source Heat Pumps

By Abdullahi Ali

The air source heat pump has great potential to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas associated with heating and cooling. The technology could immensely be useful for warm-climate regions, but there is great potential for the technology to be utilized in cold-climate regions. For those that are not familiar with the air source heat pump technology, it is simply a unit with air conditioning and heating functionality. During warmer seasons, it is able to cool the building using the warm air from outside. During colder seasons, it is able to warm the building using cold air from the outside (CERT). Similar with refrigerators and air conditions, the air source heat pump utilizes refrigerants to help heat and cool the building.  The air source heat pump is shown to be highly suited in warmer climates with warm climate deployment. Although air-source heat pumps are not as highly efficient in very low temperatures, using a cold climate deployment air source heat pump may help raise the efficiency during cold winter months. 

The main reason air source heat pumps are very promising in terms of environmental sustainability is its ability to be powered through electricity. Unlike the traditional gas-powered heating furnaces, air-source heat pumps can be used in coordination with green energy. Electricity sourced from clean energy technologies such as windmills, solar panels, and hydropower dams can potentially be utilized by utility providers to help power electrical devices such as air source heat pumps. The cold climate air source heat pump deployment is a promising technology in the Midwestern and northeastern regions of the United States where there are more balanced seasons with half the year being colder and the other half being warmer. According to an article from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy, Molly Rettig describes an air source heat pump that was able to be utilized in climates as cold as Alaska at below-zero temperatures. There are also tests being conducted by engineers to better the efficiency of the air source heat pump in colder climates (Rettig). 

As air source heat pump technology improves in cold climates combined with greater utilization of green energy in the electrical grid, Minnesota would greatly benefit from the air source heat pump technology. According to Clean Energy Resource Teams, using air source heat pumps may only help lower heating and cooling costs, but also energy costs (CERT). 

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