Gadget Lab

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Everyone's Pumped About Heat Pumps

People everywhere are hot for heat pumps. These electric appliances—which perform the same heating and cooling tasks as traditional HVAC systems, just much more efficiently—have been outselling gas furnaces over the past couple of years. Their proliferation seems to be pointing more towards an energy-conscious electric future in people’s homes. And, four months ago, nine states in the US signed a memorandum of understanding that says that heat pumps should make up at least 65 percent of residential heating, air conditioning, and water-heating shipments by 2030.

But, what exactly is a heat pump? How does it work? How much does it cost to replace your furnace with one, and how much money does making the switch actually save you in the long run? Let’s also consider the same question we’re asking about AI: how much will this change or displace existing jobs for the people who have been trained to install and service traditional HVAC systems?

WIRED staff writer Matt Simon is our in-house heat pump expert. He joins us this week to tell us everything we need to know about these appliances he calls “climate superheroes.”

Show Notes:

Read all of our heat pump coverage. Don’t miss Matt’s story about the heat pump technician shortage. Matt also took a look at the in-window heat pumps now hitting the market that look and operate like in-window AC units. WIRED’s Rhett Alain digs into the physics of heat pumps.


Matt recommends the book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization by Edward Slingerland. Mike recommends the book Rebel Girl: My Life as a Feminist Punk by Kathleen Hanna. Lauren recommends taking a staycation.

Matt Simon can be found on social media @mrmattsimon. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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WIRED’s Gadget Lab podcast breaks down which gadgets, apps, and services you need to know about, and which ones you can move to the virtual trash bin. Learn how today’s tech shapes our lives—plus get your hosts’ personal recommendations at the end of each episode.

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