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Don't Think Heat Pumps Are Sexy? Time to Listen to This Slow Jam

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A heat pump on the wall of a building. (Getty Images)

You know what’s hot but also cool? R&B music. You know what else is? Heat pumps.

A pair of Berkeley musicians set out to prove it by combining the two in a sultry, catchy slow jam called “(I’m Your) Heat Pump”—and the unlikely song delivers.

“(I’m Your) Heat Pump” is full of delightful double entendres, with the heat pump playing the role of both lover and steady, dependable appliance.

“When you want it hot, I’m hot for you, when you want it cool, I’m cool witchu, babe,” croons singer Will Hammond Jr., in a line that will surely earworm its way into your head. “Cause I can do it all for you, baby, all you got to do is turn me on.”

Along with being surprisingly catchy, the song educates listeners about the heat pump: how it fights climate change, how heat pumps work, and why you might consider the heating and cooling device.

You can listen to the song here:


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Why write a song about heat pumps?

“People can mistakenly think that maybe [heat pumps] are a little boring. Maybe they’re a little humdrum,” said Mike Roberts, a part-time musician and part-time music teacher. But, he said, they aren’t.

“I want people to know that heat pumps are actually very exciting,” Roberts said. They are “such a great way for us as individuals to make a difference with the climate and to improve our lives at the same time.”

Roberts converted his furnace, water heater, stove and clothes dryer — the most common gas-powered appliances — to electric appliances a few years ago.

He’s been such a fan of home electrification since then that he volunteers with the nonprofit The Switch Is On, which facilitates home electrification. He had joked before that he’d like to write music about electrification. And then he did.

The first lyrics he wrote were, “I’m your heat pump,” Roberts said. “And I just started laughing.”

Roberts recruited his bandmate and music publisher, Will Hammond Jr., to sing the ballad with his deep and resonant voice.

Bandmates Will Hammond Jr. (left) and Mike Roberts at Roberts’s home in Berkeley on Mar. 13, 2024. (Kathryn Styer Martínez/KQED)

“I had the ghost of Barry White sort of talking to me like, ‘Come on, man, you can do this,’” Hammond said.

Both musicians wanted the song to be more than funny; they wanted it to actually tell people about heat pumps.

“It’s like edutainment,” Hammond said. “We’re educating people, but we’re also entertaining them.”

“I think there’s a lot of appetite in the climate space right now for a little bit of fun,” Roberts said.

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What’s a heat pump?

A heat pump can warm or cool a home, serving the same role as a furnace and air conditioner all rolled into one. The difference is that most furnaces use gas, while a heat pump uses electricity.

Heat pumps can also warm and cool water, like a water heater.

If the technology sounds strange, you may be surprised to know that you likely already have a type of heat pump in your home. This is how your refrigerator works.

Why do heat pumps matter as a climate solution?

The largest source of emissions in your home comes from heating and cooling your indoor air.

Heat pumps are three to five times more efficient than gas furnaces and can cut a home’s carbon pollution by 40%–50%.

California’s grid is constantly getting greener as more zero-carbon and clean energy sources come online. And the state has the goal of installing 6 million heat pumps by 2030 — which would save millions of pounds of CO2.

How much do heat pumps cost?

Heat pumps tend to be more expensive than gas furnaces but less expensive than the price of a gas furnace and an air conditioning unit combined (and heat pumps do both things).

Whether a new build or an upgrade to an existing home, the average installation project costs roughly $13,000 to $23,000 in California (PDF). This, of course, varies widely based on home size, the type of heat pump you purchase, and whether you need to upgrade any other aspects of your electrical system.

But there are state and federal programs to help defray the cost. You can search for incentives through The Switch Is On or Rewiring America.

The federal Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, also includes a $2,000 tax credit for heat pumps and an additional $11,500 in rebates for low- and moderate-income households.

What else should I know about heat pumps?

It’s hard to say exactly how a heat pump will affect your monthly bills. The majority of Americans see a drop in their energy bills by using a heat pump, but in many cases, the high upfront costs of the appliance cancel out savings.

Some heat pump critics say the appliance isn’t up to the task of warming a home when it’s sub-zero outside. A heat pump gets less efficient in extreme cold, but many models still operate well, even as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roberts and Hammond don’t think their song will start a revolution, but they hope you’ll think of that humdrum, dependable appliance a little differently.

“It’s not that I think this song alone is going to make people run out and replace their gas furnace with a heat pump,” Roberts said. “But I’m hoping this is just going to create a good feeling. ‘Heat pumps are very cool. I don’t know why I think they’re so cool or sexy, but I’ll look into it.’”

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