Opportunities for Energy and Economic Savings by Replacing Electric Resistance Heat with Higher Efficiency Heat Pumps

Research Report A1603


Steven Nadel and Chetana Kallakuri


Electric resistance heat, including electric furnaces and baseboard heaters can be inexpensive to install but often expensive to run. Homeowners with these systems can save substantial energy at a moderate cost by installing a heat pump at the time as they replace a central air conditioner. Even in homes without central air-conditioning, there are opportunities to save energy when an existing electric furnace needs to be replaced, as well as opportunities to install ductless electric heat pumps in homes with baseboard electric heaters. This study analyzes a data set of nearly 2,000 US homes with electric resistance heating systems. We find that converting from electric resistance heat to heat pumps can cut electricity use for home heating by a little over half on average. The South appears to be a particularly promising region for conversion to heat pumps, since electric furnaces are prevalent there, most homes have central air-conditioning, and relatively mild temperatures make for high heat pump efficiency.