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Ann Arbor wants residents to get rid of gas furnaces in order to combat climate change

Ann Arbor wants residents to get rid of gas furnaces in order to combat climate change

Ann Arbor is aiming to convince residents to get rid of gas-powered furnaces in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

The city is proposing all-electric heat pumps as energy-efficient alternative for heating and cooling buildings as part of the A2Zero carbon-neutrality initiative to provide whole community with renewable energy.

A2Zero is Ann Arbor's commitment to becoming carbon-neutral in a just and equitable way by 2030, and we can't get there without talking about electrification, said Julie Roth, senior energy analyst at the sustainability office.

We have a big issue in our buildings, and that is that we are burning fossil fuels in them for heat, she stated.

At the Ann Arbor Distilling Co., a workshop on air-source heat pumps was held on Wednesday, September 22, with dozens of residents attending or watching virtually.

Representatives from Mitsubishi Electric and Rheem Manufacturing, as well as the Grand Rapids-based GreenHome Institute, discussed the benefits of heat pumps, and testimony from residents who have them, among others.

The GreenHome Institute's Brett Little stated that his organization'' aims are to empower people to make healthier, sustainable choices.

He said he made his house fully electric last year and has a Mitsubishi air-source heat pump, which kept his home warm through last winter. "We're talking about affecting not just the energy conservation and efficiency and carbon reduction of our houses, but also having o healthier home," implying.

We were able to pull heat out of the air, and it was amazing, so we know it works, he added, implying that it is resulting in energy savings, especially when paired with his existing air-conditioning system.

Little also has a Rheem air-source heat pump for heating water. He said that the system works well, and there is no noticeable difference in energy costs or usage after switching from a gas unit.

The reality is we can't go totally net zero when we're burning fossil fuels, we don'' t decarbonize, so we must electrify, he added.

Mike Schaefer, a Mitsubishi Electric manager, flew in from Chicago to discuss his company's heat pumps.

Everybody has a version of opulence pump in their house that is already in the form of an refrigerator, which extracts heat and exhausts it out of the fridge, according to Schaefer. He also stated that an air-source heat pump does to heat a home, except it's removing heat from outside air and bringing it inside, as well as reducing heat flow from inside.

He explained how heat pumps draw that heat energy and use a compressor to transfer it into ihome, and he said there's always heat in the air outside, even in winter.

It's an air conditioner in reverse, he said.

While typical home furnaces and air-conditioning systems turn on and off, with big energy draws when theyre activated, a heat pump employs an inverter-driven compressor to provide more consistent comfort and efficiency without big ups or downs in temperature, according to Schaefer.

Another advantage of heat pumps is that homeowners are not obligated to take responsibility for carbon monoxide emissions, according to Schaefer.

The stumbling block to a gas furnace is that it's causing it to burn gas, its burning flames, It'll be unsafe, and it doesn't hurt, he added.

According to the National Center for Environmental Health, about 50,000 people in the United States visit the emergency department each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning and at least 430 die, in addition to home fires and explosions from gas equipment.

Different types of electric heat and heat pump systems can be installed to divert from gas, including ductless and ducted systems. homeowners should install a cold-climate air-source heat pump in order to heat tens of thousands of homes in the winter in Michigan, according to Schaefer.

Mitsubishi's cold-climate heat pumps provide extreme heating output, even in subzero temperatures, he said.

Standard air-source heat pumps aren't fully capable when outside temperatures drop below 47 degrees, but they can still be a great option when combined with receptive heating system or utilized to cool tens of thousands of feet of space in the summer, he said.

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

They're also far more efficient than any gas combustion equipment, according to Schaefer.

For a heat pump with o 300 percent efficiency rating, that means that for every $1 invested into it, $3 worth of heat is produced, according to Schaefer.

So, its extremely efficient from that point, he said, stating that this is more than triple the efficiency of the finest gas furnace.

The difference is operational costs that you must examine at, and thats always driven by utility costs, he added as a warning, since gas is less expensive than electricity.

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Rheem Manufacturing regional sales manager Tim Gaughan flew to St. Louis to discuss his company's heat pump systems, including air-source heat pumps water heaters that may replace gas water heating systems.

In the United States, we're one of the few nations that haven't utilized particularly sophisticated technology, he added, adding heat-pump water heaters have been around decades.

According to him, the average water heater accounts for 16-18% of a home's energy usage, and people are becoming more conscious of saving energy.

Rheem's heat pump water heaters, which he said cost $300 to $400 per year, said if they pay for themselves in less than two years.

He added that because they absorb moisture from the air, they can also serve as dehumidifiers.

Wayne Appleyard, a local architect who owns Grass Lake's net-zero all-electric home, has an air-source heat pump for heating and cooling his home. He explained it was a bit more expensive than a simpler system, adding two indoor air handlers and one branch box to the outdoor unit, as well as duct work.

Claire McKenna, a building scientist at the University of Michigan, said she's starting 'a study investigating the societal implications of at-scale deployment of residential heat pumps, which outlines potential costs as utility firms respond to higher electrical loads.

While air-source heat pumps were the focus of Wednesday's workshop, ground-sourced heat pumping, such as geothermal systems that utilize the earth'' energy to heat and cool buildings, may be a focus at another workshop.

Meanwhile, 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. The city is urging residents to replace other gas appliances such as stoves and dryers with electric models, in addition to furnaces & water heaters.

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