Energy Coach Hot Tips Archive

Matt Shmigelsky's Hot Tip for November 2015

Heat pumps make cooling, heating,
hot water affordable

Air-source systems a good solution for all-electric
or propane homes

Heat pump technology is a high-efficiency option that can heat a home in the winter and keep it cool in the summer. The same technology can also be used for cost-effective hot water heating.

For all-electric homes, and for homes that use propane or wood instead of natural gas, heat pump technology is worth a close look, said Matt Shmigelsky, an energy consultant with Garfield Clean Energy and CLEER.

When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver up to three times more heat energy than the electrical energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s because a heat pump moves heat, rather than creating heat from a fuel as combustion heating systems do.

Home heating and cooling

Heat pumps have their limits in super-cold temperatures, but they can deliver warm air at a much lower cost than electric baseboard heating or propane furnaces.

“Homes with high heating costs are prime candidates for heat pumps,” said Shmigelsky.

All-electric homes typically rely on electric baseboard heating systems, also called resistance heating. While these systems can be zoned for temperature control room by room, they are still a costly means of heating and can be a fire hazard.

Today’s air-source heat pump systems resemble conventional air conditioning systems, with a condenser unit located outside the home and a fan unit indoors, typically mounted on the wall or within an existing furnace.

These systems can also be configured to include a resistance heating unit, which kicks on to heat the home when outdoor temperatures drop. Heat pumps operate well down to 20 degrees, and some systems operate as low as 0 degrees F.

For homes with propane or wood heating systems in place, air-source heat pumps can provide low-cost supplemental heating for outdoor temperatures as low as 0 degrees. That limits the use of propane or wood to winter nights when temperatures fall below 0.

The extra advantage to installing an air-source heat pump is that the system can provide cooling in the summer months with no additional installation costs.

“These systems have cost more to install, but some of this added cost can be covered by utility incentives and manufacturer rebates,” said Shmigelsky. “And you get the AC essentially as a freebie.”

Hot water heating

Heat pump water heaters are the new federal standard for electric hot water heating systems of 50 gallons or more. This technology cuts electric usage by more than half compared to old-style electric hot water heaters.

These heaters use heat pump technology to draw heat from the surrounding air to heat  water for domestic uses. Currently available systems also have a backup heating element for instances of intense hot water consumption, such as back-to-back showers.

Although these units cost more, owners typically recoup the higher costs in less than three years.

Air pump hot water heaters are taller than old-style units, and must be installed in a space of at least 700 to 1,000 cubic feet so there is sufficient surrounding air.

“These heaters take advantage of a free commodity. All that ambient heat building up in a kitchen, laundry or mechanical room is available to tap as an energy resource to reduce your hot water heating expense,” said Shmigelsky.

Rebates are available for some air source heat pump space heating and hot water heating systems, and Garfield Clean Energy offers free energy consulting to help homeowners get started on choosing a system.

Get started today

Garfield County residents: Call CLEER at 704-9200 or click here to get started.

Eagle and Pitkin county residents: Call CORE at 925-9775 or visit to get started.


Contact an Energy Coach

Maisa Metcalf (se habla español)
(970) 704-9200 ext. 1101

Brandon Jones
(970) 704-9200 ext. 1103