Alaska heat pump installers recommended by Heat Smart also say demand for the units is growing. One installer, Mark Houston, describes a surge in inquiries about heat pumps in early 2023, surpassing the number of inquiries he received in all of 2022. Another, Chris Karsunki, says he installs 50 to 70 heat pumps a year, but makes twice as many phone inquiries. Businesses are also increasingly adopting the technology, he adds.

Juno gets most of the electricity from lakes that offer a clean hydropower resource. This means that it is particularly environmentally friendly to install electrified heating systems in the city.

But to be fair, Juneau is in the warmer end of the state and doesn’t tend to experience the same brutally cold winter weather that can plague places up north like Anchorage or Fairbanks, where heat pumps can be less cost-effective.

In the village of Eklutna, near Anchorage, electrician Derek Lampert found a heat pump that can handle extreme temperatures. He lives in the house he built with his father during the pandemic. The walls are 22 inches thick, he boasts. Lampert planned to make the house as energy efficient as possible, so he invested in a SANCO2 heat pump that uses CO2 for refrigerant. The machine provides space heating and hot water supply.

“We’ve had it down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit and it still worked,” says Lampert. “I was getting 135 degree water.”

High efficiency was definitely Lampert’s goal, and overall he’s pleased with the results. At least financially, a well-insulated house and the installation of a heat pump turned out to be beneficial. “People in my area spend more [than my entire electricity bill] on propane and fuel oil,” says Lampert.

However, because the heat pump draws indoor heat from the outside, sometimes over a long period of time, the outside of the machine can become particularly cold and make the unit less energy efficient. Heat pumps are generally designed for intermittent defrosting, but Lampert claims his model may be better at that. He says he has noticed a significant amount of frost and ice around his heat pump when it is very cold. “Certainly, the colder it is, the worse it is. It just fights with all the moisture,” he explains.

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