New kid on the block: The Pennsylvania Geothermal Heat Pump Association, Inc. (PA-Geo) is joining the growing ranks of similar heat pump organisations, all seeking to promote renewable technologies as governments around the world look to innovative technologies to lower carbon emissions and tackle climate change.
Heat Pumps Across the World
There is an urgent need to promote heat pump technology at a global, national, regional and local level. Organisations at a global level include the International Energy Agency (IEA), which was formed in 1974 and its spin-offs, the Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies (HPT TCP), and Heat Pump Centre and these have done an excellent job of involving governments around the world in the important conversations around energy security, economic development and environmental awareness.
This work has encouraged governments to set up grants and other incentives for the uptake of heat pumps and other green energy solutions. There have been moves in the UK to phase out gas furnaces (or boilers as they call them over there) in order to reach net-zero for cabon emissions. The energy sector is responsible for 75% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so phasing out the burning of gas to heat homes in favor of heat pumps seems like a sensible step.
There is a similar appetite to promote renewable energy here in Pennsylvania, with the recent announcement that solar energy could soon power about half of Pennsylvania’s state government operations.
And that is precisely why the newly-formed Pennsylvania Geothermal Heat Pump Association has arrived on the scene at exactly the right time. Following the lead of our canny Scottish cousins who set up Heat Pumps Scotland and the other forward-thinking Brits to the south who run the UK-based Heat Pump Association and the more specialized Ground Source Heat Pump Association, PA-Geo is a non-profit trade organization that seeks to increase the vizibility and understanding of heat pump systems. They seek to educate, connect and inspire people to make use of this exciting technology.
Heat Pumps in Pennsylvania
Secretary Dennis M. Davin is just one of many officials talking up the possibilities for Pennsylvania. Known as part of the “Rust Belt” for many years, Davin and others are showcasing the innovation and renewed passion and culture that is thriving across the state.
Davin points to tech companies like Uber and Google, as well as big established players like Ford who are investing large sums of capital in the region to develop robotics and self-driving cars. Uber’s Advanced Technology Center is based in Pittsburgh and has launched a pilot fleet of self-driving cars in the city.
PA-Geo is perfectly aligned with this spirit of innovation and technology and should be part of the drive to transform the “Rust Belt” into the “Smart Belt”.
What is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump moves heat from one place to another. They are the primary technology behind air conditioning, heat pump heating systems, refrigerators and the like. They move heat by making use of the refrigeration cycle, which is in contrast to systems that generate heat via fossil fuels or by converting electrical energy directly to heat using a heating element.
What this means is that heat pumps are much more efficient than many traditional alternatives and are considered to be a form of renewable energy due to their high efficiency.
Do Heat Pumps Work in Pennsylvania?
Short answer is “yes”. Heat pumps move heat from outside to inside, kind of like a refrigerator in reverse. Provided you have good insulation in your home, there is no reason that a heat pump shouldn’t be able to deliver sufficient heat to your living areas. It’s important to get a qualified contractor to assess your home’s needs and provide bespoke advice on your specific requirements. A poorly designed or badly installed system will not give you what you need so do your own research and get good advice.
What Types of Heat Pumps Are There?
The main types of heat pump are air source, ground source and water source. Air source are a popular choice because they are straightforward to install and can be very cost effective. Ground source are more expensive due to the excavation required for installation of the ground loop which collects heat from the ground but they have the advantage of a more consistent temperature under the ground, avoiding efficiency problems when the weather is colder. Finally, water source heat pumps can be very effective but the refrigerant loop needs to be placed under water, which isn’t always on option on many sites. They can also be more prone to maintenance issues, particularly if the loop is on a river bed because floods can cause damage to the loop or displace it.
What is the Lifespan of a Heat Pump?
Heat pumps typically last between 10 and 20 years, depending on how much use they get.
In order to maximize the lifespan of your heat pump system you must make sure it is designed and installed correctly. If it has been under or over-sized it will run inefficiently, either because it keeps “cycling”, or because it cannot cope with the demands being placed on it.
Can Heat Pumps Drive Economic Growth in Pennsylvania?
According to the IEA, nearly 20 million households purchased heat pumps in 2019 and this is set to continue to grow as electricity becomes greener and people actively seek out more environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels for heating and hot water. In many countries, heat pumps have become the most popular technology in new build houses. When you take into account that heat pumps account for only 5% of heating demand in buildings across the world the opportunity is clear.
If PA-Geo can effectively promote heat pump technology, working with government and industry stakeholders to remove market barriers, particularly for renovations, lobbying for improved policy support and helping to drive energy performance and new and improved refrigerants then the future is bright for heat pumps in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania needs more of these initiatives and I for one put my full support behind what they are doing. I’m even considering installing a heat pump in my home.
You can email PA-Geo at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are based at PA Geo, 917 Old Fern Hill, Road, STE 300, West Chester, PA 19380.