Heinrich talks heat pumps during visit to Santa Fe

Jeffery Granger, an energy auditor expert and Santa Fe Community College Energy Smart Academy Consultant, said that virtually every home he visits to check indoor air quality has some level of a gas leak. This can put residents at danger because leaking gas can lead to high levels of carbon monoxide. That underscores the need […]

Heinrich talks heat pumps during visit to Santa Fe

Jeffery Granger, an energy auditor expert and Santa Fe Community College Energy Smart Academy Consultant, said that virtually every home he visits to check indoor air quality has some level of a gas leak.

This can put residents at danger because leaking gas can lead to high levels of carbon monoxide.

That underscores the need to transition houses to cleaner sources of energy for heating and cooking. Granger spoke about this during a meeting with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich during a visit to Santa Fe Community College on Friday. 

Heinrich told reporters that there is currently an interest in higher efficiency appliances and Santa Fe Community College is training technicians who can audit households to find areas that are leading to high costs of heating and cooling.

Those energy audits can also find gas leaks, as Granger noted.

Even people that have carbon monoxide detectors purchased at hardware stores like Home Depot may still have some level of carbon monoxide in their house. This is because the carbon monoxide detectors that are easily available to purchase do not detect levels below 70 parts per million. The tool that Granger uses detects levels as low as nine parts per million.

Every year, at least 420 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Granger said dangerous indoor air quality is often caused by combustion of fossil fuels.

“I would like to have electrification happen tonight with everybody,” he told Heinrich.

Granger said that phasing out gas appliances like stoves and furnaces will help people be healthier.

Heinrich noted that it isn’t just carbon monoxide released when using a gas stove. Those stoves have also been found to give off benzene.

One way that people can phase out the use of gas and propane is to install a heat pump for heating their homes. The Energy Smart Academy at Santa Fe Community College will soon begin training students on heat pump installation and maintenance. The academy showed Heinrich one of the heat pumps it plans to use to train students.

This will include options like a two-day intensive training program and online opportunities.

There are also rebates and tax credits available to help people afford heat pumps for their houses. 

Heinrich said the flexibility includes online options, which allows technicians throughout the state, and even from other states, access to learn how to work on and install heat pumps.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits of up to 30 percent of the purchase cost for a residential heat pump. There are also rebates available in New Mexico for low and moderate income households that wish to purchase a heat pump, Heinrich said.

There are also added financial benefits for people who have heat pumps. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a heat pump uses 50 percent less electricity than furnaces or baseboard heaters and, depending on the size of the home and its current energy efficiency, heat pumps can save people $500 annually.

Heat pumps can also be used to cool houses in the summer. 

In addition to heating or cooling, there are also heat pumps designed to work as water heaters.

“Heat pumps are the most efficient solution that’s out there. And part of that is because they’re gathering heat not making heat,” Heinrich, who has a background in mechanical engineering, said.

He said heat pumps are many times more efficient than the best gas furnace because they pull heat from outside and bring it into the home.

Heinrich anticipates that heat pumps will become common in new houses and that rebates and tax credits will help people with existing homes afford heat pumps.

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