What if I live in the South? Does HITS work in a hot climate?

The fab four recipe for cutting your carbon footprint will work in the southern half of the country as well as in the northern half.

From the point of view of the laws of physics a house is just a box. It has a top, a bottom and four sides. Energy comes into the box from electricity and heating fuel. Energy goes out through the walls, windows, attic and floor/basement. This is the same whether we call the box a house, an apartment block, an office or a factory.

In a cold climate you need to keep the heat in. In a hot climate you need to keep the heat out. The answer is insulation and triple-glazed low-E windows in both cases. So these parts of HITS (the I and the T) are the same in cold climate or a hot climate.

However, a heat pump (the H in HITS) in cooling mode is the same efficiency as an air-conditioner. It is only in heating mode that a heat pump has four times the efficiency of an oil-fired or natural gas-fired furnace or boiler. So the year-round gain in heating/cooling efficiency is bigger in a cold climate than a hot climate.

Solar panels (the S in HITS) work better in the southern half of the US because there is much more sun there than in the northern half. In fact, where we live in Massachusetts, we have a rather poor solar crop to harvest . The desert southwest has almost 40% more solar energy per year. This makes solar power about 40% cheaper per kilowatt hour in the southwest compared to Massachusetts. See this map from the NREL:

In addition to how much sunshine you have in your area, the price you pay for utility electricity will have a big impact on the payback period for solar panels. High electricity prices make the payback period on solar panels faster, because you are saving more money per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by your solar panels.

Other than Hawaii, which has very high electricity prices, the highest cost for electricity in the U.S. is in New England, California and Alaska where you will pay about 20c per kilowatt-hour. In a band of states running down the center of the country from North Dakota to Louisiana, electricity is about 10c per kilowatt-hour.

So overall, with insulation and low-E triple-glazed windows cutting your carbon footprint and utility bills across the entire country and with the lower benefit of using heat pumps for heating in the southern half of the country combined with the higher solar production in the southern half of the country, HITS will benefit you no matter where you live. The recipe just needs to be fine tuned to your exact location and local financial subsidies.

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