Guest Commentary - In Scorching Sacramento, Heat Pumps Are a Lifeline

By David Hamburger | Guest contributor | 

Summer is here, and extreme heat waves are the new normal in California. The Sacramento Valley could see record breaking temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 20 degrees above normal for this time of year. Increasingly, families will need to make decisions on how to keep their homes safe and comfortable without breaking the bank.

That’s why I am calling on Governor Newsom and California policy makers to fund the Equitable Building Decarbonization Program in the state budget and a bond to ensure consistent funding. This would unlock no-cost clean energy upgrades for tens of thousands of low-income households who would be eligible for the program.

Every home is unique, and installing the right heating and cooling equipment is not one-size-fits-all. But many homes currently have a one-size central furnace or HVAC system, which is like putting a size 12 shoe on someone’s foot, regardless of their actual foot size. Heat pumps, however, are a smart, modular technology that can be right-sized to meet every individual home’s needs. This feature, combined with appropriate insulation as part of a whole-house approach, makes heat pumps much more efficient and cost-effective to Californians.

By using incentives and rebates, low-income families can install heat pumps to replace incorrectly installed or poorly maintained ventilated gas appliances. Households can also save on their energy bills when they switch out old, inefficient appliances with heat pumps. Heat pumps use half as much electricity as baseboard heaters and furnaces, and are much more efficient than electric space heaters. They also provide cooling that is more efficient than window A.C. units.

A better technology at a more affordable price will further accelerate the clean energy transition, and also drive the market to make technologies like heat pumps even more available and affordable. It will also help the state achieve its ambitious goal of installing 6 million heat pumps by 2030. As climate change continues to drive up temperatures, an affordable and efficient cooling system is a must have.

We need California leaders to fund initiatives that help make heat pumps more available and accessible to all households. That’s why the Equitable Building Decarbonization Program is so important by providing free heat pump installation, weatherization, and upgrades that make low-income households electrification-ready.

As a home performance expert in the Bay Area with more than 15 years of experience, and the owner of Building Efficiency, I’m calling on our leaders in Sacramento to step up and fund this no-brainer program that can upgrade California homes equitably, further our state’s environmental goals, and create skilled construction jobs in clean energy technologies for years to come.

David Hamburger is the owner of Building Efficiency.

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