HVAC Electrification and You

HVAC Electrification and You
If you've been paying any attention to the news recently, you might have heard about the importance of decarbonization. Also known as strategic electrification, the decarbonization effort aims to reduce atmospheric pollution by making sustainable electric-powered technology more efficient and affordable. Strategic electrification stretches across almost every industry, from automobiles to HVAC equipment. And that's what we're here to talk about. HVAC electrification is going to be a hot topic in the next few years, and we're excited to start on the long journey toward more sustainable heating and cooling.

What's Driving the Electrification Trend?

Just like any other movement, beneficial electrification didn't come from a vacuum. There are three major factors behind this trend — technological innovation, falling energy costs and increasing policy changes.

Technological Advancements

HVAC equipment is constantly evolving. Every year, we see more affordable, energy-efficient units hit the market — and this trend is likely to continue as investment into sustainable alternatives continues to grow. Some examples include:
  • Solar HVAC: Solar-powered HVAC systems use energy converted from the sun to heat and cool buildings. Most are hybrid systems to account for nighttime use and other periods where sunlight isn't available.
  • Refrigeration changes: Refrigerants are chemicals that absorb heat through a chemical process. The traditional, highly-caustic refrigerant, R-22, is being phased out for a more efficient and low-impact option, R-32.
  • Inverter-driven compressors: This system optimizes energy efficiency by varying the compressor speed according to ambient conditions.
We're only getting started. Researchers in the HVAC space are always looking for the next opportunity to innovate, and newer units are likely to be even more efficient than those being released now.

Decreasing Renewable Energy Costs

Clean energy is more accessible every year, thanks to technological innovations. Take solar power, which was 710% more expensive than the cheapest fossil fuel in 2010. In 2022, solar was 29% cheaper than that same fuel. Unlike fossil fuels, electricity generated from renewable power sources is not subject to wild price fluctuations and physical supply shortages. While sustainable energy sources are subject to availability — solar and wind power are dependent on the presence of sunlight and wind respectively — coal and gas are finite. Furthermore, considering that fossil fuels shot up in price from 2021 to 2022, the stability of electric power could be a big relief for many Americans.

Environmental Awareness

Reducing your carbon footprint is more than a buzzword now — it's an essential step in saving our home. As a society, we've become acutely aware of how fossil fuel consumption is harming the environment. That awareness is one of the driving factors behind the rising demand for energy-efficient appliances and renewable energy sources. It's also driving environmental policy changes in some areas. California is a big one here. In 2022, the state voted to begin the process of phasing out natural gas-powered appliances by 2030. That legislation will be up for a final vote in 2025, so stay tuned.

How Does HVAC Electrification Affect the Environment?

We'll answer this question with another question — why is HVAC electrification important? And the answer to that is simple. If we continue relying on gas-powered systems for so long, the environmental consequences could be disastrous. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record high in 2022 at 417.06 parts per million (ppm). If we continue using fossil fuels at the same rate as we do now, that number is expected to exceed 900 ppm by 2100 — that much CO2 could warm the Earth so much that widespread environmental change would be inevitable. And the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that about 40% of the nation’s total energy demand comes from buildings — which creates a lot of emissions. Electric HVAC systems don’t produce local emissions like their gas-powered counterparts. Heat pumps are a great example. The IEA projects that switching to heat pumps from conventional water heaters could reduce global emissions by more than 500 million tons over the next decade. That's a big difference.

How Will Electrification Impact the HVAC Industry?

We've seen how strategic electrification has radically disrupted the automotive industry with the recent push toward EVs. It should come as no surprise, then, that electrification will make big changes in the HVAC industry moving forward.

Shift Toward Renewable Energy

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that by 2050, renewable energy could make up as much as 90% of all decarbonization solutions worldwide. As renewable energy production becomes more efficient, it will become more reliable and accessible. Governments are already taking steps to make renewable energy more affordable with tax credits, rebates and similar programs. These initiatives could make it easier to buy and install an energy-efficient electric HVAC system for those who are considering making the switch.

New Building Codes and Regulations

Electric HVAC appliances require totally different infrastructure from their traditional counterparts, so we're likely to see major updates to building codes. Some existing buildings will also need a lot of internal upgrades before they're ready for HVAC electrification. Depending on when it was build, this could include your home. If you have a 200A breaker box and central AC, you won't need to make many changes to become electric-ready.

What Are the Next Steps?

We're in the next steps right now. Throughout the world, governments and businesses are taking action to fight climate change through environmental legislation and investments into more sustainable energy generation. The updated seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) standard is a great example. As of January 2023, all new HVAC equipment must have a SEER rating of 14 or 15, depending on your geographic location. This update also increased the required heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) for heat pumps. The current requirements for each heat pump type are:
  • Packaged: HSPF 8 and SEER 14
  • Split: 8.8 HSPF and SEER 15
Now, these regulations don't apply to your existing HVAC system, so it's best to wait until it finally kicks the bucket before you make the switch. But if it's time to start looking for a replacement, you'll want to research electric HVAC units.

Prepare for HVAC Electrification With Ingram's Water & Air

Are you ready to switch to a more sustainable HVAC system? Ingram's Water & Air is here to help you out. Since 2000, we've been at the leading edge of high-quality, affordable HVAC and water heating appliances. You can count on us to provide reliable appliances that don't break the bank. We carry a wide selection of Energy Star-certified MrCool HVAC appliances and heat pumps to suit any installation or budget. Browse our online catalog of HVAC equipment today to find the right system for your home.
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