Ann Arbor wants residents to get rid of gas stoves to fight climate change

ANN ARBOR, MI – In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change, Ann Arbor hopes to convince residents to get rid of gas-fired stoves.

As part of the A2Zero CO2 neutrality initiative to supply the entire community with renewable energies, the city is promoting fully electric heat pumps as an energy-efficient alternative to heating and cooling buildings.

“A2Zero is Ann Arbor’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral in a just and equitable manner by 2030, and we cannot do that without talking about electrification,” said Julie Roth, senior energy analyst with the sustainability bureau.

“We have one big problem in our buildings and that is that we burn fossil fuels in them to produce heat,” she said.

The sustainability bureau hosted a workshop on air source heat pumps at Ann Arbor Distilling Co. on Wednesday, September 22, which was attended by dozen of residents or watched virtually.

Representatives from Mitsubishi Electric and Rheem Manufacturing as well as the GreenHome Institute based in Grand Rapids discussed the benefits of heat pumps and reported from local residents who own them.

Brett Little of the GreenHome Institute said his group’s mission is to empower people to make healthier, more sustainable choices.

“With electrification in particular, we are not only concerned with influencing the energy savings and efficiency and CO2 reduction of our houses, but also with a healthier home,” he said, noting that he made his house completely electric last year and a Mitsubishi air source heat pump that kept his house warm last winter.

“We were able to take heat out of the air and that was amazing and we know it works,” he said, adding that it results in energy savings, especially when it is used for cooling in the summer compared to its old air. Conditioning system.

Vicki Honeyman, an Ann Arbor-based air source heat pump, owner of Vicki’s Wash and Wear Haircuts, heats and cools the old garden shed that she turned into a one-chair barbershop next to her house on Murray Avenue on September 24, 2021. “They’re just a really reasonable way of heating and cooling,” she said.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

Little also has a Rheem air / water heat pump for heating water. It works well and there’s no noticeable difference in energy costs or consumption after switching from a gas appliance, he said.

“The reality is that when we burn fossil fuels, we can’t go completely to zero, we can’t decarbonize, so we have to move towards electrification,” he said.

Mike Schaefer, a manager at Mitsubishi Electric, flew in from Chicago to talk about his company’s heat pumps.

Everyone already has a version of a heat pump in the form of a refrigerator in the house, which extracts heat and dissipates it from the refrigerator, said Schäfer. That’s also what an air source heat pump does to heat a house, except it takes heat from the outside air and brings it inside, he said.

Even in winter there is always warmth in the air, he explained and explained how heat pumps extract this thermal energy and bring it into the house with a compressor.

“It’s air conditioning in reverse,” he said.

While typical home stoves and air conditioners turn on and off and use a lot of energy when activated, a heat pump uses an inverter-powered compressor to provide more consistent comfort and efficiency without large temperature fluctuations, Schäfer said.

Another advantage of heat pumps is that homeowners don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide emissions, Schäfer said.

“The downside of a gas stove is that it’s a combustion device, so it burns gas, it burns flames, it’s not safe, it’s not healthy,” he said.

In addition to house fires and gas plant explosions, about 50,000 people in the United States visit the emergency room each year and at least 430 die from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the National Center for Environmental Health.

There are several types of electric heating and heat pump systems that can be installed to evacuate gas, including ductless and ductless systems. To heat an entire house in Michigan in winter, homeowners should install a cold-air air source heat pump, Schäfer said.

Mitsubishi’s cold-climate heat pumps offer “extreme heat output” even in sub-zero temperatures, he said.

Air Water heatpump

An air source heat pump outside the Wayne Appleyard home of Sunstructures Architects. The outdoor unit plus two indoor air handling units and a junction box, along with the plumbing for the in-house system, cost about $ 25,000, he said, explaining that it was “a little more expensive” than a simpler system.Wayne Appleyard

Traditional air source heat pumps lose performance when outside temperatures drop below 47 degrees, but they can still be a good option when combined with another heating system or used to cool a house in the summer, he said.

When it comes to energy efficiency, the ratings for air source heat pumps can be double, triple or quadruple electric baseboard heaters or electric space heaters, he said.

They are also much more efficient than any gas-fired system, said Schäfer.

For a heat pump with an efficiency of 300%, this means that for every dollar invested, heat is generated worth $ 3, Schäfer said.

“In that sense, it’s extremely efficient,” he said, adding that this is more than three times the efficiency of the best gas oven.

“The difference is the operating costs that you have to consider, and they are always driven by the operating costs,” he added as a caveat, since gas is cheaper than electricity.

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Tim Gaughan, Regional Sales Director for Rheem Manufacturing, flew in from St. Louis to talk about his company’s heat pump systems, including air source heat pump water heaters that can replace gas water heaters.

“In the US, we are one of the few countries that has not used this type of technology almost extensively,” he said, adding that heat pump water heaters have been around for around decades.

The environment is changing with global warming and people are becoming more conscious of energy conservation, he said, noting that the average water heater accounts for 16-18% of a home’s energy use.

“They literally pay for themselves in less than two years,” he said of Rheem’s heat pump water heaters, adding that they save $ 300 to $ 400 a year in energy costs.

Since they remove moisture from the air, they can also act as dehumidifiers, he said.

Wayne Appleyard, a local architect who has an all-electric home in Grass Lake with no net zero electricity, has an air source heat pump to heat and cool his home. The outdoor unit plus two indoor air handling units and a junction box, along with duct work, cost about $ 25,000, he said, explaining it was “a little more expensive” than a simpler system.

Claire McKenna of Ann Arbor, a construction scientist at the University of Michigan, said she was starting a study of the societal impact of large-scale residential heat pump use, including the potential cost of utilities responding to the higher electrical loads.

While air source heat pumps were the focus of the workshop on Wednesday, geothermal heat pumps such as geothermal systems that use the earth’s energy to heat and cool buildings could be a focus of another workshop, Roth said.

In the meantime, the sustainability office has referred residents to the GreenHome Institute’s YouTube playlist to find out more about heat pumps and the electrification of a house. In addition to stoves and water heaters, the city wants residents to replace other gas appliances such as stoves and dryers with electric models.

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