Everything you need to know about the wild world of heat pumps

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But with a lifetime of about 15 years, heat pumps are cheaper to buy and operate than other systems for some consumers, especially if they’re used to heat and cool a home during different parts of the year, Monschauer says.

And more than 30 countries around the world have incentive programs for heat pumps, often with bonuses for low-income households or those who buy high-efficiency appliances. Italy has particularly high subsidies for heat pumps installed when retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, with customers getting up to 110% of the purchase price back as tax credits.

In the US, the Inflationary Reduction Act provides a 30% tax credit on the purchase price of a heat pump, providing additional discounts for low- and moderate-income households. For some households, the money can cover 100% of the cost. Rewinding America has a calculator to help people determine what types of IRA subsidies they qualify for.

What’s next for heat pumps?

While heat pumps are much better than they were a decade ago, there is still a lot of potential growth for the technology.

New designs, such as self-contained window units with an initial gradient, can reduce installation costs. Other companies, such as Media and LG, have also started offering smaller, portable units. These new options allow heat pumps to go into new places, like old apartment buildings where installation might be expensive or impossible.

One ripe area for further development is in refrigerators. While today’s refrigerators are improvements over older options, even the newer ones are powerful greenhouse gases. Careful handling and proper manufacturing are required to avoid leaks. The climate benefits from heat pumps are greater than those from heat pump refrigerants, but alternatives can help reduce this risk even further.

Gradient, for example, uses a refrigerant called R-32, which is less global warming than R-410A. Other refrigerants, such as the hydrocarbons propane and butane, pose less climate risk. However, some of these climate-friendly refrigerants are highly flammable, so safety systems are required.

New technological developments help to expand the huge range of heat pumps on the market. And as the technology becomes more common, costs should come down over time.

In the year Global heat pump sales to grow by 15% by 2021. Europe has seen some rapid growth, with sales growth of 35% in 2021, a trend likely to continue due to the energy crisis. North America today still has the largest number of homes equipped with heat pumps, but China takes the prize for the most innovative sales.

No matter where you look, the age of the heat pump has officially begun.

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