New Jersey officials are tired of your old furnavce and boiler.
This month, they joined those from eight other states in setting a shared goal to have electric heat pumps provide roughly two-thirds of all residential-scale heating, air conditioning and water heating by 2030. By 2040, the goal is 90%.
The aim is to “reduce the carbon footprint of buildings,” which generate tens of millions of metric tons of CO2e greenhouse gases a year, said New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.
Buildings are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey. They rank only behind vehicles, state reports say. In New York State, they are the largest.
“Implementing zero-emission concepts such as these into our homes and daily lives is integral to addressing the worsening effects of climate change,” LaTourette said. “This effort will benefit our economy, create jobs and contribute to healthy air.”
Heat pumps have already surpassed gas furnaces in sales in the U.S. Unlike gas furnaces, which burn natural gas and contribute to climate change, heat pumps operate by transferring heat from outdoor air into indoor spaces.
Advanced heat pumps can efficiently extract warmth from the air to heat homes even in freezing temperatures. Some can be used to provide hot water and cool buildings by reversing the process.
As electric systems, heat pumps can run off renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. When running off the power grid, they can still offer significant cost savings for consumers.
A 2022 report from Acadia Center found that electrification of heating systems could bring reductions of 20% or more to the average New Jersey homeowner’s utility bills. The report, commissioned by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, found that adding electric appliances and winterization strategies along with heat pumps could cut bills in half.
New Jersey and the eight other states pushing heat pumps — California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island — plan to collaborate on various initiatives, including pursuing federal funding for incentives and promoting the installation of zero-emission, grid-interactive technologies in existing state buildings.
The states agreed in a memorandum of understanding that at least 40% of efficiency and electrification investments should benefit “low-income households facing high energy burdens and communities historically burdened with elevated air pollution levels,” said a press release issued Feb. 7.
The states’ efforts coincide with recent federal commitments to support heat pump adoption. Last November, federal officials allocated $169 million for domestic heat pump production. Rebates and tax credits have also been offered to households making the switch to thermally efficient heat pumps and heat pump water heaters.
By tracking sales and collaborating with heat pump manufacturers, the states aim to stimulate production to meet the increasing demand. However, challenges remain, particularly in training enough technicians to install and maintain heat pump systems, said officials from the Building Decarbonization Coalition. The memorandum emphasizes the importance of workforce development and contractor training to ensure a skilled workforce capable of meeting installation demands.
A statement from the Building Decarbonization Coalition said a greater focus on workforce development, consumer education and affordability will be critical to the success of the transition. The memorandum nonetheless sends an “unmistakable signal to the marketplace that zero-emission homes are the future,” added Matt Rusteika, the coalition’s director of market transformation.
To address vehicle emissions, state officials have been setting other deadlines. Last November, officials announced a new rule that will prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035. Other states in the heat pump union — California, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island — have adopted similar rules.
New Jersey’s rule, which went into effect on Jan. 1, will not prohibit the ownership or use of gasoline-powered cars come 2035. Consumers will also be able to drive new gasoline-powered light-duty vehicles purchased out of state, emissions standards aside.