Oct 20, 2020

Space Heating and Cooling in Midwest Residential Homes

Rabi Vandergon

This work characterizes the current heating and cooling technologies serving residential homes across eight Midwest states. CEE conducted this work as part of our equitable electrification research, to examine the changes needed to bring carbon-free electrification to Midwest homes. Explore the graphics below for a preview of results, and view additional key findings of this analysis on CEE’s Tableau Public page.

Why This Research Is Needed 

The transition to efficient, electric space heating requires that we understand existing equipment as well as the opportunities and barriers posed by heat pump options. The technology type, fuel type, and age of existing systems will influence the optimal equipment choices. For example, the relative cost of any heat pump solution depends on the fuel used by a home’s existing heating system. The heat pump type, auxiliary heating systems, and integration, as well as performance, including cold climate specifications, all follow from the specific installation circumstances. These barriers and opportunities must be fully analyzed for wide-scale market transformation.

Key Takeaways

Single-family (one-unit) homes make up 90% of space heating energy use. While multifamily households are prevalent in some metro areas, they remain a smaller portion of overall households (<25%). In addition, multifamily homes are a more efficient way to live and use far less energy than single-family homes.

Natural gas is the dominant heating fuel across all housing types in the Midwest. The low relative cost of natural gas in recent years presents cost barriers for electric technologies. However, other consumer motivations — such as desire to reduce carbon emission impacts — still make this an important market in the near term. In addition, heat pumps installed for cooling can provide additional benefits to natural gas households when heating during shoulder seasons.

Just over two-thirds of households have central air conditioning, which offers an energy efficiency opportunity, as air conditioning units are typically less efficient than even the lowest-tier heat pumps.

The age of existing systems also presents a market opportunity, as older systems can be replaced on failure with efficient electrification. Over one-fifth of heating systems are beyond their specified end of life.

Methods and Assumptions

This project used data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey and State Energy Data System, as well as from IPUMS USA, to tell the story of space heating in Midwest homes.

Related Links

Equitable Decarbonization 2040 Vision
Blog Post: Electrification, Energy Efficiency, and Peak Demand​

Funding for this work provided by the McKnight Foundation.