Optimizing Heat Pump Load Flexibility for Cost, Comfort, and Carbon Emissions

Optimizing heat pump load flexibility for cost, comfort, and carbon emission reductions

The Regents of the University of California on behalf of the Davis Campus



Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Update

This project kicked off in July 2020. The recipients has finalized subcontracts and developed their technical advisory committee. The team has faced personnel challanges during the initial years of the project due to COVID19. An amendment for a no-cost term extention is currently being processed by CEC to extend the end date to 6/30/2025.

The Issue

Heat pumps for space conditioning and water heating are currently controlled using rule-based logic to maintain a programmed temperature setpoint. This design does not provide any flexibility to adjust the heat pump operations based on cost of electricity or grid carbon emissions rate. As California continues to decarbonize the electrical grid and more customers electrify, the need for load flexibility for heat pumps will be critical for maximizing the use of carbon-free electricity sources. This is needed to stabilize the electricity grid, and minimize the cost of operation to end users, particularly as time-of-use rates begin to reflect the true costs of electricity generation.

Project Innovation

This project develops and tests an advanced control system that saves energy, improves grid reliability, and reduces carbon emissions by optimizing heat pump operation based on building owner/occupant preferences, comfort and use patterns, electricity pricing, electricity grid needs, real-time carbon emission rates, and weather data. Load flexibility controls offer a way to mitigate the impact of electrification on low-income customers by empowering households to shift consumption to times of day with lower rates without compromising their comfort. The recipient will test controls for heat pump water heaters in multiple low-income households (across two climate zones). The developed controls for water heating will also be adapted to heat pumps that provide space conditioning and field test them in two low-income households. The controls will be futureproofed to facilitate integration with other smart home devices.

Project Benefits

Electrifying California's housing stock to reduce carbon emissions could yield some unintended negative consequences, including creating a winter peak and increasing residential utility bills, especially when larger time-of-use rate differentials are anticipated. The recipient will develop load flexibility controls for heat pumps that will play a vital role in mitigating the impacts of switching water and space heating away from natural gas. The load flexibility controls have the potential to improve grid reliability, lower emissions, and reduce utility bills for households with heat pumps.

Lower Costs


It is estimated that the ability to shift load to off-peak hours would reduce residential customers’ energy costs (relative to using heat pumps without load flexibility controls) by $28-107 per year, returning the investment in the controls in 3 to 10 years.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

It is estimated that the heat pump load flexibility controls for water heating and space conditioning could reduce emission by 8,267 metric tons of CO2eq emissions as well as reduce criteria pollutant emissions through reduction in natural gas and electricity use for heating and cooling over the next 30 years.

Greater Reliability


It is estimated that advanced load flexibility controls for water heating and space conditioning could shift a total of 7930 MWh and 28,344 MWh of energy use, respectively, to off-peak times resulting in improved grid reliability.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Caton Mande



TRC Engineers, Inc.


Mutual Housing California


Quetzal Gardens L.P., managed and controlled by Resources for Community Development (RCD)




Ratnesh Sharma


Match Partners


Southern California Edison


Western Cooling Efficiency Center - UC Davis






Contact the Team