Blog post by Ilana Williams, Montgomery County 2023 Summer Climate Intern
Montgomery County approved a bill in 2022 to move away from fossil fuels in new buildings. This was around the same time Wayne Crump was installing a gas furnace. His boss called and told him to install a heat pump for the next system he worked on.
Crump, the supervisor for the HVAC shop and facility maintenance division at Montgomery Parks, has invested heavily in modern technology heat pumps ever since the bill was approved.
Inverter heat pumps are more energy efficient air conditioners that can reverse their flow. Regular air conditioners gather heat from inside the building and pump it outside. Heat pumps have a reversing valve that gather heat from the outside and pump it indoors. This process uses a third of the electricity.
“I’m a little bit of an enthusiast,” Crump said. “I’ve always wanted to know what to do to help with climate change. All of a sudden I had something that I could do.”
Montgomery Parks hopes to install heat pumps over the next 15 to 20 years because that is when they replace the HVAC systems, Kayla Hickman, the sustainability coordinator at Montgomery Parks, said. However, with the situation of climate change, they want to transition to heat pumps as quickly as possible.
“Technology has really developed into some nice stuff that is saving a lot of energy (and) a lot of electricity,” Crump said. “To the point where we can replace a lot of our equipment that was fossil fuel.”
It’s important to switch to heat pumps for two reasons: fossil fuels are bad for the environment and electric heat is very expensive, Crump said. It’s important to find a way that can do the same amount of heating, but at a lower electrical energy cost.
Along with changing its HVAC system, Montgomery Parks has over 2,000 exterior lights and is in the process of replacing those fixtures with LEDs. They are also focusing a lot on energy conservation and renewable energy. They are constructing solar panels on maintenance facilities and transitioning their lawn equipment, car and truck fleet to electric.
In the future, Montgomery Parks would like to upgrade old buildings to improve energy efficiency. Building envelope technology is looking at building like it’s a box and wanting to seal it up as tight as possible, Crump said. Insulation is important so the temperature on the inside is not being lost through the walls.
Building envelope upgrades would occur before switching out the HVAC system, but the parks have a lot of older buildings, with some of them being historical. For instance, Waters House is over 100 years old, but the Historic Society is working with the Montgomery Parks to improve its insulation before adding an all-electric system.
“We want to be in line with Montgomery County’s Climate Action Plan that has a goal to be emissions-free by 2035,” Hickman said. “Also, we manage a lot of natural resources in the County and those are directly threatened by climate change.”