Heat Pumps Are Taking Over

Air-source heat pumps are a booming business. In the Northeast, manufacturers report that sales of residential systems have increased by 25-35% per year over the past 5-10 years. We’ve seen more and more systems being installed in existing homes (to provide cooling while offsetting oil or propane used for heating) and into new homes (often as the sole source of heating and cooling).

We’ve looked into these systems often, and from many perspectives. I’m planning a series of posts, but, for now, here are the answers to some basic questions we receive from clients.

First, the basics: What is an air-source heat pump (ASHP)?

It’s an air conditioner that can operate in reverse. During the summer, it moves heat from indoors to outdoors. In the winter, it moves heat from outdoors to indoors. We helped NEEP (the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships) to put together a market assessment and strategy report on ASHPs. The early sections in this document (see p. 12) outline the different terms and types of heat pumps (ducted/ductless, split/packaged, mini-split, multi-split, central, etc.) Unfortunately, different people can use the same term to mean different things, but hopefully the NEEP Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Air-Source Heat Pump Strategies Report can help clarify things.

Indoor section of heat pump.

 

Outdoor section of a heat pump.

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SWA Lifestyles: A Simple Weekend Cabin

By Kai Starn, Sustainability Consultant

kai_starn_headshot

Autumn has arrived again in the Northeast and the foliage is in full splendor. Over the Canadian Thanksgiving / Columbus Day weekend, I headed up to Ontario to deliver one final truckload of building materials to my family’s property there, which is located an hour and a half across the Canadian border. While I am a Connecticut native, the land bordering the Frontenac Provincial Park has been in my family for generations. In the 1980’s, my grandfather logged the area, and subsequently built a road and a log cabin on the property, which is where my grandmother now spends time during the summer.

The main cottage is a gathering place for family reunions; as such, I had always envisioned building a small weekend cabin to accommodate extra people for the occasions when there was sure to be a full house. About a year ago, I began to design and build this structure. When completed, the tiny cabin will be a simple, un-insulated cottage of old. But, dang, if it doesn’t scream summer and lake and relaxation!

Lakeside living.

Lakeside living.

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New York Keeps It Clean with a Global Commitment to Emissions Reduction

This October, Governor Cuomo announced with former Vice President Gore that New York will join the Under 2 MOU effort to join states and cities around the world in pledging to reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050. The Under 2 MOU is a global joint effort to encourage action at the Conference of the Parties meeting at the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris later this year.

This is not the first commitment that impacts performance targets for buildings in New York. Both the city and state have committed to deep reductions in emissions that have regulatory and programmatic impacts on buildings.

What Targets are in Place?

The Under 2 MOU program is already in line with New York’s same self imposed target in place: 80 by 50 via Executive Order No. 24 which was signed in 2009. New York is one of 20 states, plus DC, with a target in place.

SWA_PolicyEmissionsMap

Source: http://www.c2es.org/us-states-regions/policy-maps/emissions-targets

New York City has a comparable target.  In September 2014 the One City Built to Last plan also targeted an 80% reduction by 2050. But to reach this target, the city needs to reduce 30% of GHG from the building stock by 2025.

How Does New York Reach These Goals?
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When Did Building Science Become Energy Efficiency?

If nothing else, people are adaptable. While something might be an annoyance at first, we often figure out a way to manage it and move on. Unfortunately, we all too often do this when it comes to our greatest life investment…our homes. Whether an existing or new home, we almost always are not comfortable in our home or at least portions of our home. One, several, or even the entire home may never be at desirable conditions, but we learn to cope with it by putting on layers of clothing or adding small electric heaters to cold spaces, or supplemental fans in hot ones. So we are not comfortable as we allow our conditioned air to easily escape our homes and our utility bills continue to be high. The simple question is…why?

Mike Trolle

“People have all sorts of misconceptions about the sacrifices that they feel they have to make in high performance homes and it is completely untrue. It is exactly the opposite. The even temperatures, the lack of drafts, the feeling of warmth, comfort, and right levels of humidity and fresh air…they are unrivaled. Comfort is something you have never experienced properly in a home until you have a high performance home.” – Michael Trolle, BPC Green Builders
(Source: CT Zero Energy Challenge 2012)

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California: Three Hours Behind the East Coast, but Years Ahead in Sustainability?!

Solar Panels San Francisco

Image source: www.greentechgazette.com

As a native Californian, I often marvel at my home state’s progressive attitude towards environmental conservation. In 1988, we were the first state to adopt air quality standards, which the federal Clean Air Act would later be amended to resemble. More recently, landmark legislation such as A.B. 32, or California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, set the first statewide requirements for GHG emissions reductions in the country. Today, cities like San Francisco have plastic bag bans and zero-waste initiatives. However, our culture is one of sustainability partly out of necessity—in January 2014, Governor Brown declared California’s severe and sustained drought situation a state of emergency. Despite our already resource-constrained present, California’s population is anticipated to increase by 14% over the next fifteen years to 44 million people. The good news is, we’ve made some big strides recently in planning for the future demands of an ever-growing population.

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