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Report: MD must adopt air quality equipment standards to meet climate goals

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Monday, October 16, 2023   

A new report documenting the impact of fossil fuel-powered appliances on air quality makes the case that Maryland will need to take additional steps to meet its climate goals.

The study authored by a group of environmental organizations looked at home and commercial use of fossil fuels in HVAC systems and water heaters - and found that in Maryland, such equipment emits more than three times the amount of health-harming nitrogen oxides as all the state's power plants combined.

The nonprofit Chesapeake Climate Action Network contributed to the report, and Maryland Director Jamie DeMarco said pollution from fossil fuel-powered appliances is worse in cities.

"Every gas furnace vents outside, so it's a little smokestack," said DeMarco. "And when you have a lot of homes together, there's a lot of smokestacks. So urban areas have more concentrated air pollution outdoors from indoor space and water heating."

Study authors are calling on the state to enact air-quality equipment standards similar to those in California, that would phase out the sale of natural gas-fired furnaces and water heaters and promote more efficient alternatives such as heat pumps.

The report estimates pollution from fossil-fuel equipment in Maryland is responsible for more than 6,000 lost workdays per year and more than $1.3 billion in health impacts.

Researchers also forecast that newer, more efficient appliances would reduce costs, estimating that 98% of households in the state would save money on energy bills each month.

DeMarco said a new state standard for home appliances would not impact existing equipment, but would be implemented at the point of sale.

"Air-quality equipment standards would not come into anybody's home and require you to change what you have," said DeMarco. "It's just at the point when you need to replace the equipment. An air-quality equipment standard would just ensure that you are buying the best product that is going to heat your home most efficiently, most affordably, while not contributing to air pollution in Maryland."

In decades past, the criticism of heat pumps was their inability to continue operating in extreme cold.

But DeMarco said technology improvements in recent years have brought units to market that can still heat homes with outside temperatures at minus 22 degrees.

"These are not your grandparents' heat pumps," said DeMarco. "One of the states with the highest adoption of heat pumps for heating homes is Maine. Because you just don't have the gas pipelines to reach all those rural homes. But you can install heat pumps, and it heats even in Maine winters."

Heat pumps also cool homes in summer months and use 29% less electricity vs central AC.





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