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Testimonials - Heat Pumps

Cathy C, Naperville

Recently, ACS sat down with a local cold climate air-source heat pump owner, Cathy. Here's what she had to say about her experience with her heat pump. (The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.)

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

In addition to being executive director of Accelerate Climate Solutions, I'm an environmental scientist and a co-chair of the Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force (NEST).

What made you choose to buy a heat pump?

Natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas, indoor air pollutant, and has risks for carbon monoxide poisoning and exploding. I didn't want a little fossil fuel plant in my house, so I got an air source heat pump to stop burning natural gas and have energy efficient heating and cooling.

How did you go about purchasing your heat pump and how difficult/costly was the process surrounding it?

It was frustrating. Most HVAC contractors weren’t well-informed and tried to talk me out of it. So I spoke to a lot of HVAC contractors before I found one willing to put in the unit. In some cases, the contractors really want you to have backup natural gas. That's called “dual fuel.” I didn't want that, since I wanted to get natural gas out of my home. It was a struggle to get somebody to put in backup electric heat instead of gas. Getting off of natural gas is important, so if others are struggling to find a contractor that will work with them, I'm happy to help. I love talking to HVAC folks! As executive director of Accelerate Climate Solutions, one of the things I want to do is to make it easier for other folks to get their own cold climate heat pump by working to educate both contractors and consumers.

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Cathy's Air-Source Heat Pump (Shown with owner's permission)

Did you know about or use any financial incentives?

Yes. When I purchased it, the Inflation Reduction Act hadn't passed, but now there are lots of incentives from the federal government. In addition, in Naperville, where I live, there’s an Air-Source Heat Pump Rebate Program — $500 or $600 depending on the pump. But you have to be a member of the Naperville Renewable Energy Program, so it’s very local. However, the incentives for ComEd customers are even better, up to $2000. 

How long have you had a heat pump and what has been your experience with its efficiency? How well does it achieve its intended purpose?

We've had it for almost exactly one year (got it in June 2022). It’s more efficient in the summertime, and in the winter during moderate temperatures. If it’s an especially cold winter, it is a little more expensive given current natural gas prices. Across the whole year, the cost is pretty comparable or slightly cheaper. Plus, burning natural gas definitely causes way more carbon emissions.

Does anyone else you know use heat pumps in their houses or in buildings? 

I know at least three people that have dual fuel, so they have natural gas backup with their heat pumps. But even if you have natural gas backup, you don't have to ever turn it on. It's just there for emergencies. It just doesn't solve the problem of having natural gas in your home.

Lastly, would you recommend the heat pump to other people and what do they need to know? 

Oh, 100%, yes. I'm going to get myself a button that says “ask me about my heat pump.” The most important thing that everyone should know is to ask for a cold climate heat pump. I recently learned that some local HVAC contractors are not offering the type of heat pumps that work best in our climate, so they effectively don't work when it's below freezing. Cold Climate Air-Source Heat Pump is what you want. They are typically rated to -22 F or even lower. 

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