Most new commercial and large multi-family buildings in Washington must install heat pumps under provisions of a revised energy code.
Washington is the first state to mandate that electric heat pumps be installed for space and water heating in large buildings, and the State Building Code Council will consider a similar proposal for smaller residential buildings later this year, Grist reports.
Heat pumps extract warmth from outside air to provide space heating and operate in reverse to provide space cooling during summer. The revised code also mandates the use of heat pumps for hot water.
Burning natural gas for space heating is responsible for 10% of U.S. carbon emissions, and there are growing demands for buildings to shift to systems which use electricity from non-carbon sources. Lobbying from the natural gas industry has prompted at least 19 state legislatures in the U.S. to pass pre-emption laws that prevent municipalities from banning gas, Grist says. A proposal to ban natural gas heating in new buildings in New York state was dropped during budget negotiations last month.
The state legislature in Washington set a target to reduce energy consumption by 70% in non-residential buildings by 2031. The new code contains some exceptions for buildings where fossil fuels are required for “specific needs that cannot practicably be served by heat pump,” and large commercial buildings are allowed to use gas heating as a backup option in cold weather.