The Most Efficient Way to Heat and Cool
Over 100,000 heat pumps have been installed in Maine and they are now more common than oil heat in new homes. They are the most popular heating system across all of Efficiency Maine’s rebates because they offer highly efficient heating, air conditioning, and dehumidification.
Why Whole-Home Heat Pumps?
There are several reasons that Efficiency Maine’s programs are shifting the focus to whole-home heat pumps. The main reason is to help Maine consumers save more money on their heating bills.
Research shows that it is challenging to maximize the energy-saving potential of heat pumps when they are operated concurrently with your home’s old, central heating system. This commonly occurs, especially where only one or two heat pumps are installed. In these cases, if the new heat pump(s) are able to heat only a portion of the home, users will often try to heat the rest of the home by running the old central system.
Unfortunately, when this happens, the old central system typically heats up the whole house to the point that the sensors in the heat pumps tell the heat pumps to stop operating. Since the heat pumps are more efficient and affordable to operate over a full heating season than a boiler or furnace burning oil, propane, or kerosene, consumers will pay higher heating bills if the heat pumps are not operating to full capacity. The best solution is to install a big enough system of heat pumps to heat the entire home and run them all winter long so that the old central heating system can be safely turned off and relegated to use as an emergency backup. (Note: Exceptions to turning off the old central system are appropriate when it is being used to provide domestic hot water or is connected to an automatic emergency generator.)
Cold-Climate Heat Pumps Work
Research also shows that the current generation of heat pump technology, specially engineered to operate in cold climates like Maine, can successfully and affordably supply heat throughout Maine’s long, cold winters. Some heat pump models deliver 100% of their heating capacity even at -13 degrees Fahrenheit (° F), and will continue to provide more than 85% of their rated capacity at -22° F. Some models continue to deliver warm air even when it is below -30° F outside. This means that a properly sized, properly designed heat pump system is capable of heating a whole home through an entire Maine winter. Consumers may also employ supplemental heaters (e.g., room heaters, wood stoves) to address extreme situations or isolated cold spots, as needed.
Federal Tax Credits
Another reason for Efficiency Maine to shift its focus to whole-home heat pump solutions is that last year the federal government introduced a generous tax credit for homeowners installing heat pumps as a partial-home solution. The new federal tax credit for a single heat pump is greater than the rebate Efficiency Maine used to offer.
Maine Climate Action Goals
Finally, Efficiency Maine’s programs strive to support the State’s climate action goals. One such goal is transforming the way Maine’s homes and businesses heat their buildings using high-efficiency, low-carbon heat pump technology. The State’s climate action plan set a target of incorporating whole-home heat pump systems in at least 115,000 homes by 2030. This is a big target that is fast approaching, so it is imperative that our programs prioritize available resources on promoting whole-home heat pump systems.