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As winter weather sets in, the heat kicks on in New York City's approximately one million buildings. Most of these buildings' furnaces or boilers run on fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil; as a result, heating and hot water account for about 42 percent of the city's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Vijay Modi, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University and an Earth Institute faculty member, and his research group are studying how to decarbonize heating. His solution? Heat pumps that run on electricity—because as more and more electricity is sourced from renewable energy, "it is much easier and affordable to make electricity green than to make a green fuel."
Policy - Makers - Value - Heat - Pumps
"Policy makers have recognized the value of heat pumps," he said, "And they are part of the New York State governor's energy efficiency goals—that by 2030, we should have 25 percent of the heating from heat pumps."
Electrified heating is important for the rest of the nation, too. To avert the catastrophic impacts of climate change, we must reduce our carbon emissions to zero as soon as possible. According to a 2018 report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, reaching "deep decarbonization" goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 percent or more will entail, among other measures, eliminating most of the emissions produced by the burning of natural gas, oil or propane in American homes and businesses for heating and hot water.
Heat - Pump
What is a heat pump?
Modi describes heat pumps, which have been in use since the 1940s, as air conditioners with internal hardware and controls that enable them to operate in reverse.
Type - Heat - Pump - Unit - Compressor
A popular type of heat pump has an outdoor unit containing a compressor and condenser that works with an indoor unit (although heat pumps can also be contained in one unit). In hot weather, a heat pump...
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