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For His Next Trick, Elon Musk Will Revolutionize HVAC Systems

Caroline Delbert
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN - Getty Images

From House Beautiful

  • Like a sensible midwestern parent, Elon Musk wants you to think about HVAC.
  • Musk is inspired by the heat pump that replaces resistance heating in the new Model Y.
  • Tesla has iterated different resistance heaters, but this heat pump is completely new.

Because running Tesla and SpaceX and building a new Starship every 72 hours so he can colonize Mars isn't enough, now Elon Musk would really love to build an efficient and quiet HVAC system for home use, according to Inverse. It could even piggyback the existing work Tesla has done to make heaters for its newest vehicle, the Model Y.

The first few Tesla vehicles used an electric cabin heater to replace a traditional fuel vehicle’s reliance on internal combustion engine heat. Trying to find the right kind of heater has been challenging at times for Tesla, which was faced with reinventing the wheel, so to speak. Before now, engines made the heat as a secondary effect of combustion. Tesla’s first handful of vehicle models used common resistance heating, which fundamentally is the same as how a heat pad or electric blanket works: resistors accumulate slowed current and grow hot.

Resistance heat is a battery hog, and far less elegant than the heating source built into fossil fuel cars. Of all the very valid critical observations you can make about the traditional combustion engine vehicle, the way engine heat is both repurposed to warm the vehicle and cooled by going through the heater system is wildly inventive and efficient.

Heating and cooling are in such careful symbiosis in these vehicles that many an owner has spent an odd summer afternoon with their heat running full blast to bring down an overheated engine.

For its upcoming Model Y crossover, Tesla went back to the drawing board to find a better solution for both heating and the battery range that heating can cost. On Twitter, Musk said the heat pump his engineering team came up with is first rate, in his opinion:

Experts and Tesla enthusiasts online are speculating about how it works, and a hypothetical heat pump can operate in a different ways depending on how it’s designed and positioned. Does it just move heat from the engine into the rest of the car, making it more like a traditional combustion engine car’s heating system?

Electric batteries aren’t literally exploding, so the heat they produce is inherently different, but gaming and other high-end PCs can already use heat pumps to dispose of electronic heat. The HVAC system you have likely has a “heat pump” of sorts in the form of an air conditioner.

Musk said on Twitter he imagines a full-home HVAC system inspired by and maybe even linked with the temperature controls inside someone’s Tesla vehicle.




With smarter controls, context awareness, and even a HEPA filter, a Tesla HVAC could be to radiators what Tesla’s vehicles are to internal combustion: different, an iterative improvement, and something that still honors the work and ingenuity that came before.

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