Climate change has the odd effect of making many of us inordinately excited about appliances we never used to care about. Suddenly, all the background machines, which have up to now been unconsciously powering our lives, have taken on outsized importance. Some of them have the potential to provide the essential services we depend on while, at the same time, not destroying our planet like the fossil fuel powered machines of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Ductless heat pumps are a prime example. In the past, many of us used gas furnaces and boilers to heat our homes and burned fuels that emitted copious amounts of CO2 in the process. Now, with the magical heat pump, we have access to efficient electric technologies for heating and cooling that can be powered entirely by renewable energy, and thus be carbon neutral.
Brief History and Growth of Ductless Heat Pumps
Ductless heat pumps (DHPs) were developed in Japan after World War 2. They were invented and perfected on an island that doesn’t have easy access to fossil fuels, and so they are the ideal heating/cooling system for our modern world given they don’t rely on combustion and are also incredibly efficient.
They condition 90% of Japanese homes, and worldwide their usage is growing like crazy, with an expected doubling of heat pump sales in the next five years. In the UK, sales are projected to increase 20 fold, and in the US, some areas are seeing sales growth north of 40% every year.
My family has used ductless heat pumps for our heating and cooling since 2012 when we bought our house. The gas furnace that came with our house was old, and we made the decision to replace it with new ductless heat pumps. (A major perk is that mounting the units on the wall saved valuable floor space in the garage, formerly dedicated to the gas furnace, which we converted into an apartment). We had seen them used in Europe and figured, even 9 years ago when the electrification movement was in its infancy, that heating with efficient electricity would allow us to reduce our carbon emissions with the solar panels we planned to install on our roof.
What is Ductless?
But what is a Ductless Heat Pump (a.k.a. mini-split)? Basically, it is a heating/cooling system that is different from a traditional furnace in several ways:
1. DHPs don’t have air ducts. Rather than forcing hot air through potentially leaky ducts, ductless systems place an indoor device on a wall and an outdoor unit (similar to a typical AC unit) which provides heating and cooling. This means no air escapes through leaky ducts, creating more efficient conditioning.
2. DHPs don’t burn things. Ductless heat pumps use electricity to provide heating and cooling. Electricity is rapidly moving towards being fully renewable and thus will soon produce zero emissions (the Biden administration set a goal of 2035 for example).
3. DHPs are like refrigerators in reverse. Instead of burning fuel, ductless heat pumps create heating and cooling through refrigeration. This means they capture heat from outside (even when it’s cold) and move it into your house, and vice versa for cooling. It’s pretty magical. The refrigerants used by DHPs can be potent greenhouse gases themselves, but luckily the world is moving quickly to using better, more environmentally friendly refrigerants (check out this website for a new type of refrigerant called R32).
4. DHPs are incredibly efficient. This is because a) no air leaks through ducts b) they heat the room they are in (rather than the whole house), c) moving heat is vastly more efficient than creating it, and d) they use inverter systems (see below). As a result, they typically use three times less energy than old electric resistance heaters and six times less than gas.
Demystifying a couple DHP terms
Speaking of efficiency, let’s demystify a couple of terms associated with ductless heat pumps.
SEER — SEER is a number that measures how well a technology provides cooling. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. Most new air conditioners have a SEER between 13 and 21, but ductless can often see a SEER over 30, which gives you an idea of how efficient they are. If you’re in a warm climate, SEER is especially important.
HSPF — HSPF stands for Heating Season Performance Factor and complements the SEER rating in that it measures how efficiently a heat pump heats a space. The minimum required HSPF rating in the US is 7.7. An 8.5 score is considered good, and over 10 is excellent. If you’re in a cooler climate, where the predominant energy use is for heating, HSPF is most important.
I interviewed Tim Sharp, from the Heat Pump Store here in Oregon, which has installed thousands of ductless heat pumps over the last decade. He said that you’ll want your DHP to be most efficient in heating if you’re in a cold climate, and cooling if you’re in a warm climate. People in the northern US should probably focus on HSPF, while in the southern US, people should focus on SEER. Tim also said that investing in a DHP with higher scores will be more expensive up front, but the additional cost usually pays for itself over time through energy savings.
Ductless Heat Pumps in Cold weather
I also learned from Tim that DHPs were originally developed to provide only cooling (like a refrigerator), yet they have “constantly gotten better for heating purposes in almost every environment.” If you’re in a cold climate, you probably want to think about the “extended capacity” models, which are able to provide more heating. According to Tim, they don’t cost significantly more and offer more BTUs per hour output. Read more on how to use heat pumps in cold climates here.
Ductless vs. Ducted
If you have existing ductwork in a space, you may consider a different approach when transitioning to heat pumps. Not all heat pumps are ductless. You can get central heat pumps that work with a typical central AC system, and provide heating that blows that hot air through ducts. These central heat pumps are not much more expensive than central air conditioning, and many people think that swapping out every central AC system for a ducted heat pump is an important strategy to quickly get us off natural gas and reduce carbon emissions.
Ductless, on the other hand, is a no-brainer when you’re adding heating or cooling to a room without any ductwork. And DHPs also offer greater efficiency as well as economic and environmental advantages over a central ducted heating system. In addition to the efficiencies mentioned above, ductless heat pumps use inverter technology, which means they run at variable speeds. Tim from the Heat Pump Store compares this to starting your car at a red light. Inverters slowly rev the engine when starting and stopping, while typical central AC systems gun it and brake hard, meaning they are much less efficient. All DHPs use inverter technology, while virtually all conventional (ducted) heat pumps don’t, meaning DHPs are much more efficient.
My family chose ductless heat pumps in our house, rather than a whole house heat pump, even though we had existing ductwork from our old gas furnace because of the increased efficiency.
Humidity and air quality
Though ductless heat pumps help to dehumidify a room, it is not their primary purpose. In places with humidity problems, a separate dehumidifier may still be necessary. Similarly, DHPs have built in air filters, but can’t generally filter air to the extent that ducted systems do with high rated MERV filters. Tim from The Heat Pump Store said that air filtering is considered a separate system, from heating/cooling, in places where heat pumps are most prevalent, and people typically buy another device for air filtration.
There are four leading brands of ductless heat pumps: Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, LG, and Daikin. Most of the top brands are Japanese, given they first developed the technology. This NY Times article has some solid reviews on each of these four brands.
Choosing a contractor
Finding a good installer is important. Many contractors may try to talk you out of electric heating and cooling (and into gas). Plus, you’ll want someone to help you correctly size a system for your needs. That means someone with lots of experience in ductless heat pump systems as well as a good reputation and reviews. Getting three bids is always a solid strategy. One pro tip is to look on a manufacturer’s page for contractors in your area that are certified to install their product.
Cost and Aesthetics
As Tim told me in our interview, ductless heat pumps aren’t a panacea. Any technology has its downsides. As my wife points out, the indoor equipment that sits high on your wall takes up space and isn’t the most beautiful thing in the world. Ductless Heat Pumps can also be expensive. A system with a single indoor unit can run $3,000–$5,000, but if you’re putting multiple “heads” throughout your house, costs can quickly go over $10,000.
Yet, for me, after 9 years of heating and cooling our house with ductless heat pumps, and with the climate emergency we find ourselves in, any drawbacks to ductless heat pumps are vastly outweighed by their immense benefits. Heat pumps are the heating and cooling technology for this era of climate change, and ductless heat pumps are the most efficient versions of this technology. They allow us to get off fossil fuels and efficiently heat and cool, in any climate, with clean electricity.
Learn more and do a deep dive into Ductless Heat Pumps with Tim from the Heat Pump Store in a recent webinar I hosted with Electrify Now, and let us know about your thoughts and experiences with ductless heat pumps in the comments below!
Ford is paying 2023 F-150 Lightning buyers $2,500 for unmet orders
If you ordered a Ford F-150 Lightning and were unable to get the vehicle, you may be in luck. Ford is paying 2023 F-150 Lightning buyers $2,500 for unmet orders to switch to the 2024 model.
Ford to pay Lightning XLT buyers for unmet orders
According to a dealer’s note Thursday, Ford will give buyers who ordered a 2023 Lightning XLT that was never built a $2,500 discount off the 2024 model.
The incentive will help offset the price difference between the model years. Ford initially launched the Lightning Transition Customer Satisfaction Program in 2022 to protect order holders against price hikes this year.
Ford has continued the program in 2023. That means if you bought a 2023 Lightning XLT standard range (with Equipment Group 311A), you are eligible for $2,500 off a new lease or purchase.
The incentive helps offset the 2024 XLT’s price of $57,495 compared to $54,995 last year. No other trims are eligible for the offer.
According to online auto research firm Cars Direct, the letter said, “Eligible customers can choose to order a 24MY F-150 Lightning with priority scheduling or they can purchase or lease a 23MY from dealer stock.”
Ford is still offering big incentives on the Lighting electric pickup for those not included in the deal. The Lightning currently features up to $15,000 off in incentives.
The discount includes $7,500 in retail purchase cash plus the $7,500 EV tax credit. However, the biggest discount applies to the Lariat and Platinum trims. The XLT is eligible for $1,500 for buying or leasing.
Ford is also offering $5,000 in Red Carpet Lease customer cash on the Lariat. These are some of the most significant discounts we’ve seen from Ford so far.
|2024 Ford F-150 Lightning trim||Price|
The automaker added a new “Flash” trim (pictured above) to the 2024 Lightning lineup. Ford says the new model hits the “sweet spots” with 320 miles range, a tech-loaded interior, and a heat pump, starting at $69,995.
All 2024 F-150 Lightning trims qualify for the EV tax credit except the Platinum (it exceeds the IRA’s $80K threshold).
For those not eligible for the incentive, we can still help you find some of the lowest prices on Ford’s electric pickup. You can use our link to find great deals on a 2024 or 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning near you today.
Daimler Truck North America just deployed its electric semis in-house
Daimler Truck North America is putting its money where its mouth is by using its own electric semi trucks to transport auto parts.
Daimler Truck North America and its own electric semis
The Portland, Oregon-based company launched its Freightliner eCascadia battery electric semi-trucks for customers in 2022. Now, it’s deploying an initial four eCascadias to support its production and aftermarket operations across North America.
Daimler Truck North America’s electric semis will pick up parts from suppliers in the Pacific Northwest and deliver them to its consolidation center in Portland. The parts will then be shipped to its North American factories and aftermarket parts distribution centers that serve customers in the US and Canada.
The four eCascadias will charge at Daimler’s “Electric Island,” a heavy-duty electric truck charging, development, and testing site that opened in 2021 at the company’s headquarters.
The eCascadia comes in 315 or 475kWh configurations and has up to 250 miles of range while carrying approximately a 65,000-pound gross vehicle weight.
In 2020, the Portland truck factory where the eCascadia is built achieved carbon-neutral production with reduced energy consumption and the offset of onsite emissions. Daimler plans to incorporate carbon-neutral production at its remaining truck factories by 2025.
Well, this certainly makes sense. If you want to sell electric semis, what better way to instill confidence in customers than demonstrating that you trust your product by deploying it yourself? Why would you sell eCascadias and then move the parts for those eCascadias around in diesel semi trucks, if you didn’t have to?
This is the best form of authenticity. I hope Daimler quickly rolls out more of its own eCascadias and for longer trips, too.
Photos: Daimler Truck North America
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Tesla releases Powershare bidirectional charging – on Cybertruck only, so far
Tesla has just delivered the first Cybertrucks, and with them comes a feature that we’ve been waiting for for a while: bidirectional charging.
Tesla has talked a bit about bidirectional charging in the past, but always seemed a little wishy-washy about bringing it to market. In its Investor Day presentation in March, Tesla VP Drew Baglino stated that the company could have bidirectional charging in two years, but CEO Elon Musk immediately threw some cold water on that statement, saying “I don’t think very many people are going to want to use bidirectional charging, unless you have a Powerwall, because if you unplug your car, your house goes dark, and this is extremely inconvenient.”
Now, nine months after that event, Tesla has released a vehicle that has bidirectional charging equipped – and its branding suggests that more vehicles will have the same capability in the future.
Tesla’s Cybertruck delivery event today was pretty light on details, and we’ve had to comb over the website to find out any sort of specs. And in the website we noticed one new feature that was completely absent from the presentation: Powershare.
Powershare is, apparently, Tesla’s new bidirectional charging feature which seems to include vehicle-to-load, vehicle-to-home, vehicle-to-vehicle capabilities (V2L, V2H and V2V).
V2L refers to a vehicle’s capability to power equipment – in this case, through five outlets – 2 x 120V 20A in the bed and cabin each, and 1 x 240 40A outlet in the bed. This can be used for work equipment, or for camping or other mobile power necessities (emergency response, for example).
We already learned that Cybertruck would be capable of some bidirectional charging features when specs leaked earlier this month. Those specs suggested to us that it would have ~12kW output capability, but today Tesla confirms that the Cybertruck has 9.6kW worth of continuous power combined through five outlets in the vehicle. By way of comparison, the F-150 Lightning has more outlets, but the same total 9.6kW maximum draw with the upgraded Pro Power Onboard package (and 2.4kW without).
But Cybertruck does have 11.5kW output capability from its V2H system, which allows it to power a home in the event of a power outage or grid instability.
The Lightning can also power a home, but that requires an additional $3,900 unit, plus installation costs. Tesla’s solution is no different – in order to power your home you will need additional equipment, seemingly in the form of Tesla’s Universal Wall Connector ($595) and Gateway ($1,800) products, and optionally Tesla’s Backup Switch (though this may depend on your utility).
But the big difference here is the existence of the Tesla Powerwall, and Tesla says that homes with Powerwall and Tesla’s Wall Connector installed will be ready to use Powershare without additional equipment (although it refers to alternately its Wall Connector and Universal Wall Connector, so we’re not sure which one is compatible, or both, or whether you need one made after a certain year, or what).
This is actually a huge deal, because Tesla already has an installed base of Powerwall users who can plug in without having to change anything in their homes. Lightning users might be hesitant to spend another $4,000+ just to make their home more resistant to power outages, but Powerwall owners have already spent (significantly more than that) on a solution that works with the bidirectional charging capability on the car.
So this would, essentially, turn a Powerwall with its 13.5kWh worth of storage into one with 100+kWh of storage (or whatever the size of the Cybertruck’s battery is – even after first deliveries, we still don’t know for sure).
Tesla says that Powershare can power a home for “over three days,” assuming the home uses an average of 30kWh per day (my home, for reference, uses 10kWh per day). This works out to a Cybertruck battery capacity of over 90kWh, but less than 120kWh.
The Cybertruck also has a higher continuous output capability than the Powerwall, with Cybertruck at 11.5kW and the Powerwall at 5kW.
So this could be big for V2H, because previously it has been more of a niche application. Tesla, having a market already built of houses that are V2H-capable, might see much higher usage of this capability.
Tesla also says that Powershare will be capable of V2V, or using the Cybertruck’s battery to charge another electric vehicle. We’ve seen something like this with the Lightning, where Ford cheekily released an adapter letting its Lightning charge up Teslas that need some juice. And with a NEMA 14-50 plug in the back, which is somewhat of a “standard” for EV charging, this should be something that a lot of cars already have an adapter for – including anyone with the Tesla Mobile Connector kit which used to come with every Tesla vehicle.
As of now, Powershare is only available on the Cybertruck, but the fact that Tesla has branded it with its own name suggests that it will be available on other vehicles in the future. Tesla’s website says it’s “currently” available for Cybertruck only, but doesn’t mention a timeline beyond that.
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