Earth Week: Here’s How to Fight Climate Change With Better Marketing, stop calling them “Heat Pumps”
- This air-source heat pump saves money and doesn’t pollute
Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 22, 2022
There’s hope for reversing climate change, but a critical technology is held back by poor marketing: the heat pump. In the U. S. alone, heating and cooling account for more than 40 percent of home energy usage (source: U. S. Energy Information Administration). And from Ann Arbor and Arizona to Australia, Japan, Norway, and Mexico, people are abandoning 1900s technology like furnaces, air-conditioners, and boilers. They’re replacing them with 21st-century heat pumps - a superior, all-in-one technology that heats and cools buildings efficiently without burning fossil fuels. But despite lowering energy bills and improving comfort, heat pumps are gaining market share slowly (only 7 percent of the global heating and cooling). Green Collar Marketing believes the reason for slow growth is simple: Heat pumps aren’t marketed properly.
Stop calling them “heat pumps”
“Ask 100 people in the USA what a heat pump is, and 99 of them won’t have an answer”, says Tony Zarembski (Zuh-rehm-skee), Director of Marketing to Reverse Climate Change at Green Collar Marketing. “Air-source and ground-source heat pumps are the future of domestic and commercial heating - and they’re available today. But it’s hard to sell something that people haven’t heard of or don’t understand. It’s hard to get HVAC installers onboard if customers ask for another furnace or air-conditioner. And it’s even harder to get support and funding for government policies and incentives that do the right thing - when voters don’t know what to ask for.”
According to Green Collar Marketing, the heat pump’s name is the root of the problem: It only says that it pumps heat. Buyers need to know that these devices can transfer heat in two directions - and work much better than conventional technologies.
“Start by marketing heat pumps as ’whole-house (or building) heating AND cooling pumps”, recommends Zarembski. “That way, people immediately know what they do and which equipment they replace, including furnaces.”
Next: Concisely explain how whole-house heating and cooling pumps work.
“When people are highly aware of a product, you don’t need to explain how it works in-depth”, says Zarembski. “A direct response copywriter named Gene Schwartz figured this out in the 1960s, and it still applies today. For instance, today’s computer ads don’t explain what computers do or how they work—because we use computers daily. But you can’t gloss over how a heat pump works, and expect people to buy it.”
For newer or less-common products like heat pumps, marketers need to explain the mechanism, compare the product with current technologies (think: combustion cars versus electric cars), and discuss the deeper benefits. Only then will more homeowners and organizations feel comfortable with switching.
What’s the easiest way to explain a heat pump? They’re like an air conditioner that works in two directions and makes better use of every kilowatt of electricity. Since heat pumps simply transfer heat from one place to another, they often deliver 3+ kilowatts of heating or cooling for every 1 kilowatt of power. That reduces energy bills.
With the basics covered, Green Collar Marketing advises its clients to focus on benefits—why and how heat pumps help. Beyond savings, other benefits include …
- Comfort and reliability: Advanced heat pumps improve comfort and run quieter because they modulate fan speed and BTUs. Cold-climate heat pumps work well in temperatures below -10°F (minus 23 °C). And units typically last longer than conventional systems, with lower maintenance requirements.
- Safety and Sustainability: Conventional furnaces and boilers burn fossil fuels indoors to heat buildings. Heat pumps use electricity—no carbon monoxide, flames, or emissions.
- Freedom: Heat pumps protect users from fluctuating natural (methane) gas and oil prices. And they don’t fund global gas and oil supply chains.
“Despite heat pumps’ benefits”, says Zarembski, “many individuals and businesses upgrade heating and cooling systems when their existing equipment fails—often during cold or heat waves. They tend to stick with what they’re familiar with. And in the USA, homeowners may not live in one location long enough to reach the breakeven point. These factors make it difficult to persuade people to adopt heat pumps, especially if up-front purchase and installation costs are higher.”
Heat pumps need to be more affordable up-front—to entice more people to invest in better, cleaner technology.
This is where new policies, low-interest loans, and incentive programs come into play - for new installations and replacements/renovations. Economies of scale and innovations will help drive down costs. And there are tremendous opportunities for creating climate-friendly, wallet-saving programs that combine new heat pumps with proper air-sealing and insulation.
“We don’t have decades to decarbonize and reach mass adoption”, says Zarembski. “Now is the time for marketers, nonprofits, and governments around the world to step up - to help make the transition to whole-house heating and cooling pumps...and to improve our health, climate, and energy independence. Green technologies are good for our wallets, our economy and jobs, and our planet. And with the right marketing and political will, we’re confident more and more people will choose this comfortable, cost-effective, safe, and sustainable option for their homes and businesses.”