Starting July 2023, all new homes and apartments in Washington require heat pumps. Washington State Building Code Council passed the measure, which expands upon a previous ruling requiring heat pumps in new large apartments, and commercial buildings. The installation of heat pumps aims to reduce carbon emissions by electrifying the heating systems.
This measure aligns with Governor Jay Inslee’s strategic climate agenda, acknowledging that the state’s current laws don’t meet Washington’s commitment to reduce climate pollution. The policy brief outlines a series of climate action proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including policies targeting the building sector.
Heat pumps are an energy-efficient heating and cooling system that use electricity to transfer heat rather than generate it. Washington’s access to hydroelectricity, accounting for 27% of U.S. net generation, provides cheaper electricity than many other states and should significantly lower energy bills compared to fossil fuel-based systems.
Seattle, the largest city in Washington, is powered by a significant amount of hydroelectric and carbon-free electricity. According to Seattle City Light, the city’s publicly owned utility, 86% of the electricity provided to Seattle customers comes from hydroelectricity. 96% of the electricity provided is carbon-free, coming from a combination of hydroelectric, nuclear, and other renewables such as wind.
This high reliance on hydroelectric and carbon-free electricity means Seattle has a relatively low greenhouse gas impact compared to cities that rely more heavily on fossil fuels for their electricity. As a result, electrifying heating and cooling systems with heat pumps in Seattle could potentially have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions_