It’s Wednesday, November 9, and more heat pumps are coming to Washington state.

New homes and apartments in Washington state will be required to use heat pumps starting next July, thanks to a new policy approved last week by the Evergreen State’s Building Code Council.

Heat pumps are energy-efficient heating and cooling systems that can replace not only natural gas-powered furnaces and water heaters, but also inefficient air conditioning units. Installed on the outside of people’s homes, they work by moving thermal energy from one place to another.

The Washington Building Code Council’s decision follows a similar measure approved in April requiring that heat pumps be installed in new commercial buildings and large apartment buildings. Now, with the mandate expanded to cover all new residential dwellings, environmental advocates say Washington has some of the country’s strongest building codes requiring electric appliances in new construction.

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“The State Building Code Council made the right choice for Washingtonians,” Rachel Koller, managing director of the clean energy alliance Shift Zero, said in a statement. “From an economic, equity, and sustainability perspective, it makes sense to build efficient, electric homes right from the start.”

The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, will make billions of dollars in tax credits available for new heat pumps starting next year. Experts say these credits are needed to move homes away from fossil fuels and onto electricity powered by renewables. Most Washington homes already use electricity to heat their homes, but natural gas still accounted for about a third of residential heating in 2020. Heating for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings generates nearly a quarter of the state’s climate pollution.

Patience Malaba, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Development Consortium of Seattle, called the new heat pump requirements a win for the climate and for more equitable housing, since heat pumps can help people save on energy bills.

“All Washington residents should be able to live in safe, healthy, and affordable homes in sustainable and resilient communities,” she told me. The next step, she added, will be for Washington to decarbonize existing housing through retrofits.

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