Solar panels and wind turbines get all the attention, but one underrated device makes a significant contribution to reducing emissions: heat pump. Instead of generating heat by burning natural gas, as a boiler does, an electric heat pump extracts heat from the outside air and transfers it indoors. In summer, the unit reverses, pumping interior heat to cool the building.
Sales of heat pumps are booming all over the world; some 4 million were installed in the United States in 2021, up from 1.7 million in 2012. The U.S. Department of Energy hopes to boost those numbers even further, today announcing $169 million in federal funding for manufacturing of domestic heat pumps. Funded by the Inflation Reduction Act – the a huge climate bill passed last year, which also provides tax credits for heat pumps – awards will go to nine projects across 13 states, creating 1,700 jobs.
“Bringing more American-made electric heat pumps to market will help families and businesses save money with efficient heating and cooling technology,” the secretary wrote U.S. Energy Commissioner Jennifer Granholm, in a Department of Energy statement provided to WIRED. “These investments will create thousands of high-quality, well-paying manufacturing jobs and strengthen America’s energy supply chain.”
The Biden administration is taking the step by invoking the defense production law, a provision that allows the president to stimulate the manufacturing of materials needed for national defense. In this case, according to a press release, the administration is “using emergency authority based on climate change.” The Biden administration has already used the DPA to speed up production of integrated circuits And Covid vaccines. Before that, the Trump administration invoked it to boost production of personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic.
“The president is using his emergency wartime powers under the Defense Production Act to boost U.S. heat pump manufacturing for a multitude of reasons,” says Ali Zaidi, assistant to the president and national adviser for the climate. The first is to improve energy security by reducing dependence on international supply chains, such as for components, he says. And because heat pumps are electric, they are not subject to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices. “This is our opportunity to make our families more resilient in the face of global energy volatility,” adds Zaidi. “The way we do that is by bringing supply chains home for technologies like heat pumps.”
The nine DOE projects, spread across 15 sites, cover domestic production of pumps and their individual components. For example, in Three Rivers, Michigan, Armstrong International will increase its manufacturing capacity for industrial heat pumps, while in Detroit, Treau (aka Gradient) will manufacture smaller units for homes. The money will also be used to produce the compressors used in the devices, as well as refrigerants, in states including Missouri, Louisiana and Ohio.