Home Ventilation system Ann Arbor wants residents to get rid of gas boilers to fight climate change

Ann Arbor wants residents to get rid of gas boilers to fight climate change

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ANN ARBOR, MI – In her quest to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, Ann Arbor hopes to convince residents to get rid of gas ovens.

As part of the A2Zero carbon neutrality initiative to supply the entire community with renewable energy, the city is promoting fully electric heat pumps as energy efficient alternatives for heating and cooling buildings.

“A2Zero is Ann Arbor’s commitment to become carbon neutral in a fair and equitable manner by 2030 and we can’t get there without talking about electrification,” said Julie Roth, senior energy analyst at the office. sustainability.

“We have a big problem in our buildings and that is that we burn fossil fuels there for heating,” she said.

The Sustainability Office hosted an air-source heat pump workshop at the Ann Arbor Distilling Co. on Wednesday, September 22, with dozens of residents in attendance or virtually observing.

Representatives from Mitsubishi Electric and Rheem Manufacturing, as well as the GreenHome Institute in Grand Rapids, discussed the benefits of heat pumps, along with testimonials from residents who have them.

Brett Little of the GreenHome Institute said his group’s mission is to empower people to make healthier, more sustainable choices.

“Specifically with regards to electrification, we are not only talking about having an impact on energy conservation and efficiency and reducing carbon emissions from our homes, but also having a more home. healthy, ”he said, noting that he had made his house fully electric last year and had a Mitsubishi air-source heat pump, which kept his house warm all last winter. .

“We were able to extract heat from the air, and so it was amazing, and so we know it works,” he said, adding that it translates into energy savings, especially when ‘it was used for cooling in the summer compared to its old air. packaging system.

Air-source heat pump Ann Arbor resident Vicki Honeyman, owner of Vicki’s Wash and Wear Haircuts, uses to heat and cool the old garden shed which she turned into a barber shop with a chair next door from her Murray Avenue home on September 24, 2021. “They’re just a really smart way to heat and cool,” she said.Ryan Stanton | Ann Arbor News

Little also has a Rheem air source heat pump to heat the water. It works well and there is no noticeable difference in energy costs or usage after switching a unit to gas, he said.

“The reality is that we cannot reach net zero when we burn fossil fuels, we cannot decarbonize, so we have to move towards electrification,” he said.

Mike Schaefer, a director of Mitsubishi Electric, came from Chicago to talk about his company’s heat pumps.

Everyone already has a version of a heat pump in their home in the form of a refrigerator, which extracts heat and exhausts it from the refrigerator, Schaefer said. This is also what an air source heat pump does to heat a home, except it takes heat from the outside air and brings it inside, he said.

There is always heat in the air outside, even in winter, he said, explaining how heat pumps draw that thermal energy and use a compressor to transfer it into a house.

“It’s an air conditioner upside down,” he says.

While typical home heaters and air conditioning systems turn on and off, consuming large amounts of energy when activated, a heat pump uses an inverter compressor to provide comfort and efficiency. more consistent without temperature ups and downs, Schaefer said. .

Another benefit of heat pumps is that homeowners don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide emissions, Schaefer said.

“The downside of a gas furnace is – it’s combustion equipment, so it burns gas, it burns flames, it’s not safe, it’s not healthy,” he said. -he declares.

In addition to home fires and gas equipment explosions, an estimated 50,000 people in the United States visit the emergency department each year with carbon monoxide poisoning and at least 430 die, according to the National Center. for Environmental Health.

There are different types of electric heating and heat pump systems that can be installed to move away from gas, including ductless and ducted systems. To heat an entire house in the winter in Michigan, homeowners must install a cold-climate air-source heat pump, Schaefer said.

Mitsubishi’s cold climate heat pumps provide “extreme heat output” even at subzero temperatures, he said.

Aerothermal heat pump

An air-source heat pump outside the home of Wayne Appleyard of Sunstructures Architects. The outdoor unit plus two indoor air handling units and a junction box, as well as the ducts for the system inside the house, cost around $ 25,000, he said, explaining that it was “a little more expensive” than a simpler system.Wayne appleyard

Standard air-source heat pumps start to lose capacity when outdoor temperatures drop below 47 degrees, but they can still be a good option when combined with another heating system or used to cool a home in. been, he said.

When it comes to energy efficiency, performance ratings for air-source heat pumps can be double, triple or quadruple electric baseboard heaters or electric heaters, he said.

They are also much more efficient than any gas-burning equipment, Schaefer said.

For a heat pump with a 300% efficiency rate, that means for every dollar invested, $ 3 of heat is produced, Schaefer said.

“So it’s extremely efficient on that side,” he said, adding that it’s more than triple the efficiency of the best gas furnace.

“The difference is the operating costs that must be taken into account, and which are always determined by the costs of the utilities,” he added as a warning, because gas is less expensive than electricity.

As Ann Arbor moves away from gas, DTE Energy invests billions in it

Tim Gaughan, Regional Sales Manager at Rheem Manufacturing, came from St. Louis to talk about his company’s heat pump systems, including air-source heat pump water heaters that can replace gas water heaters. .

“In the United States, we are one of the few countries that has not used this type of technology almost extensively,” he said, adding that heat pump water heaters have been around for decades.

The environment is changing with global warming and people are increasingly aware of saving energy, he said, noting that the average water heater accounts for 16-18% of energy consumption. a house.

“They literally pay for themselves in less than two years,” he said of Rheem’s heat pump water heaters, adding that they save $ 300 to $ 400 per year in energy costs. .

Because they extract moisture from the air, they can also serve as dehumidifiers, he said.

Wayne Appleyard, a local architect who owns a net-zero all-electric home in Grass Lake, has an air-source heat pump to heat and cool his home. The outdoor unit plus two indoor air handling units and a junction box, as well as the ductwork, cost around $ 25,000, he said, explaining that it was “a bit more expensive” than ‘a simpler system.

Claire McKenna, resident of Ann Arbor, a building scientist at the University of Michigan, said she was starting a study on the societal impacts of the large-scale deployment of residential heat pumps, including the potential costs when businesses utilities respond to higher electrical loads.

While air source heat pumps were the focus of Wednesday’s workshop, ground source heat pumps such as geothermal systems that tap energy from the earth to heat and cool buildings could be the subject of a other workshop, said Roth.

In the meantime, the sustainability office is directing residents to the GreenHome Institute’s YouTube playlist to learn more about heat pumps and how to electrify a home. In addition to furnaces and water heaters, the City wants residents to replace other gas appliances such as stoves and dryers with electric models.

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