Installing a heat pump now is better for the climate, even if you run it on U.S. electricity generated mostly by fossil fuels. Here’s why.

By Alison F. Takemura, Canary Media

You might consider heat pumps to be a tantalizing climate solution (they are) and one you could adopt yourself (plenty have). But perhaps you’ve held off on getting one, wondering how much of a difference they really make if a dirty grid is supplying the electricity you’re using to power them — that is, a grid whose electricity is generated at least in part by fossil gas, coal or oil.

heat pump install

That’s certainly the case for most U.S. households: While the grid mix is improving, it’s still far from clean. In 2023, renewable energy sources provided just 21% of U.S. electricity generation, with carbon-free nuclear energy coming in at 19%. The other 60% of power came from burning fossil fuels.

So do electric heat pumps really lower emissions if they run on dirty grid power?

The answer is an emphatic yes. Even on a carbon-heavy diet, heat pumps eliminate tons of emissions annually compared to other heating systems.

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