Could the Humble Heat Pump Be a Decarbonization Hero?
Heat pump basics
A heat pump’s job is to extract heat from the environment and direct it wherever it’s needed — a living room, for example, or a hot-water tank. It can also create cool air and water by transferring the collected heat away from the target area. Window air conditioners and refrigerators are both variants of this technology.
Heat pumps that draw heat from the ground or water (geothermal boreholes in the first instance, lakes or rivers in the second) are more efficient than those that pull it from the air. But all can transmit more energy (in the form of heat) than they require to operate (in the form of electricity) — at least outside of regions that frequently experience extreme cold. This makes them generally more efficient than other heating systems. If powered by zero-carbon electricity, they can heat buildings without generating greenhouse gas emissions.