Can you use cold air to heat your home? You bet. Just ask a Swede. In Sweden, a legit cold climate, they’re staying toasty with heat pumps. Unlike other heating systems, heat pumps don’t generate heat to keep your home cozy and warm — they take heat from the air. Recent advances mean this technology is now burning a hot path into cold-climate homes in the US.

Efficiency Vermont - Heat pumps
Heat pumps warm a home by transferring heat from the outside air to inside the home. PC: Efficiency Vermont

We’re rejoicing: heat pumps are a low-energy heating and cooling system that is 3x more efficient than gas-fired equipment, comes with a competitive price tag, and is easy-to-install. They also are a key technology on the pathway toward our greenhouse-gas emission-reduction goals. 

Here are four things you should know about heat pumps:

They’re dependable. Stealing existing heat rather than creating new heat isn’t a cutting-edge idea. This technology has been around since the 1850s. You read that right: more than 150 years. And get this, you already know how it works. Heat pumps use the same technology that is behind an appliance we all use daily — the refrigerator, which takes heat and unloads it in your kitchen.

They can wring heat out of freezing air. Just because it’s freezing, doesn’t mean there isn’t any heat in the air. It sounds counterintuitive, right? Heat pumps specialize at extracting even the smallest amount of warmth from the air. They’re good, but not magic. As the outside temperature decreases, the heat pump’s efficiency decreases too, meaning that it takes more energy to deliver the same amount of heat. How low can they go? Pretty low: when it’s -13 outside, your home will still be warm. 

Backup systems may not be critical. We get it, you want a heating system you can count on, especially on the coldest days of the year. According to the Tiehack Aspen weather station, the number of days below -13, are pretty limited. In 2018, there wasn’t even a single day that got that cold. But, depending on your home, you might still consider supplementing heat with a back-up system. This could look like a fireplace, or even your old boiler. Contractors will often recommend keeping existing heating systems in place—setting their thermostats well below your comfort range (like less than 60)—so they only kick on when needed. 

The climate benefits. To get to a carbon-free future we need to electrify. What’s this mean? First, electricity needs to be generated from renewable sources. (Aspen Electric is there and Holy Cross Energy and Xcel Energy are on their way!) Then that renewable energy needs to power everything we do. Heat pumps make it easy to transition your heating system to electric and move us down the path to a cleaner future. You can read more about this carbon-reduction strategy in the first article of our Electrification Series.

The technology is here—and Swede tested. Find out if you should hook up to the electric grid with a cold-climate heat pump by contacting CORE. Our energy advisors are available to help you better understand if a heat pump is the right fit for your home. Not only can we provide technical know-how, but we offer cash-back rebates of up to $2,500.