The Kicking Gas Campaign: Transitioning Whidbey Island to Heat Pumps

Derek Hoshiko, a climate activist and co-founder of rePurpose, feels a sense of responsibility in addressing the climate crisis. His recent initiative, the Kicking Gas campaign, focused on transitioning Whidbey Island residents to ductless heat pumps as a greener method of heating their homes.

The campaign aimed to get 100 homes to commit to installing heat pumps by June 2023, but surpassed that goal with 118 residents making the switch. With the success of the campaign, leaders have applied for more funding and plan to expand into Snohomish County and explore the possibility of all-electric homes.

Space heating is the largest energy component in homes, accounting for about 30% of utility bills. Traditional fuel sources like wood, propane, and oil also generate more emissions when transported to the island. Heat pumps, as stationary and self-sufficient heating and cooling sources, provide a clear solution for Whidbey Island residents.

The Kicking Gas Campaign received a $1 million grant from Washington State University to help with the transition to heat pumps. Campaign leaders offered clients savings of 20% to 50% off the total cost, and partnered with Salish Sea Cooperative Finance to create a microloans program that made the project feasible for many residents.

One of the reasons Hoshiko and his team applied for the grant was due to the pressure from South Whidbey High School students who were part of the United Student Leaders group mentored by Hoshiko. The students played a significant role in pushing for local climate action, and their demands helped pave the way for the campaign.

Ductless heat pumps are often misunderstood by residents who believe they won’t function in cold weather. However, since temperatures in the Pacific Northwest typically don’t drop to extreme lows, backup heat sources are generally not required for homes at sea level in the region. Heat pumps also improve air quality with built-in filters and can have a lifespan of up to 20 years with proper maintenance.

The Kicking Gas campaign is not only about transitioning to heat pumps, but also about creating a community of people dedicated to addressing the climate crisis. By bringing residents together and providing education and financing options, the campaign has successfully empowered individuals to take action and make a difference.

Sources: United Student Leaders, U.S. Department of Energy, Island Ductless Heat Pumps