Ryan Shea and Merrian Borgeson do more than talk the talk when it comes to heating and cooling their homes.

Both have careers shaped by their personal environmental commitments, commitments they’ve also kept in their away-from-work lives by replacing the gas furnaces in their respective homes with air-source heat pumps.

Shea, of Boulder, Colorado, is a manager in the carbon-free buildings program at RMI, formerly the Rocky Mountain Institute. He helps develop RMI’s residential decarbonization analysis tools, including the recently released Green Upgrade Calculator. He has a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in renewable and clean energy.

Borgeson, of Berkeley, California, is the climate and energy policy director for her state at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her focus is on public policies that significantly reduce emissions from buildings, the transportation sector, and power generation. Among her degrees is a master’s from the energy and resource group at the University of California–Berkeley.

I spoke with Shea and Borgeson recently while working on a piece for Earth Day, which, yes, was back in April. My idea for that story seemed straightforward: A look at how some in the environmental movement heat and cool their homes. Professional environmentalists will jump at the chance to tell the HVAC world about their heat pumps and geothermal systems, I thought. It’ll be a cinch.

But after two months of searching for sources, I’ve yet to land anything close to a representative sample. I reached out to at least 10 major organizations involved in energy conservation, decarbonization, and green building construction. To some who responded initially, I sent a list of sample questions asking for the kinds of details HVAC geeks would want to know about a heating and cooling system — its energy use, the user’s experience with it, the home where it’s installed, and the weather where that home is located.

As the clock ticked on, and Earth Day passed, I tried to keep the story alive, moving to cajoling potential sources, then to shameless pleading, something like, “Please help! Our readership is interested in decarbonization and energy efficiency! This is a great chance for someone at your organization to tell the HVAC community about great emissions-reducing technology.”

Perhaps I didn’t successfully convey the goal of the story.

“Sorry this is not a press question list, this is (a) survey,” the media contact at one organization responded. “Slightly confused!”

When I wrote back to clarify, assuring her that these were indeed questions that interested us, despite how dry they sounded, she ghosted me. Some places never responded at all.

Still, for the two for whom I did secure interviews, let’s give credit where it’s due.

Borgeson and husband Sam own a Berkeley duplex, where they live with their two sons. They rent out the other unit, which is smaller. A few years back, they decided to replace an old gas furnace that serviced both units in a ducted system.

“We knew we didn’t want gas, so the main option ... was going to be an air-source heat pump,” Borgeson said. Geothermal, she said, was not practical because of their home’s small lot size.

The Borgesons had two Fujitsu heat pumps, one for each unit, installed. “We love it,” Borgeson said. “To be honest, we don’t notice it that much, which is good.”

Winters don’t get too cold where the Borgesons live, so the heat pump can handle their heating needs. “It’s not going to freeze here more than once a year,” Borgeson said.

As a bonus, the heat pump gave the duplex air conditioning, which it hadn’t previously had. That’s important, Borgeson said, because although the Bay Area climate is moderate, there’s often a late-summer heat wave, one bedroom tends to heat up more because of its exposure to the sun, and California wildfires at times force the family to keep windows closed. “Definitely, the cooling is a big plus,” she said.

Borgeson said they’ve found their electricity bills to be “reasonable” since the heat pumps were added. Their provider, Pacific Gas and Electric, uses available renewable sources of power, and says it’s on track to generate 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Borgeson said that moving to heat pumps was an important transition for her and her family.

“I work on these specific topics in terms of policy,” she said. “We are trying to decarbonize buildings in California.”

Shea lives in a Boulder townhouse with his wife, Jessie. About two years ago, they replaced their gas furnace with a 2.5-ton Daikin cold-climate heat pump for a ducted system; they also got a heat-pump water heater to replace the gas model. Like Borgeson, they also got central air-conditioning in the bargain, replacing evaporative cooling equipment that serviced the second floor.

Further, the Sheas installed solar panels on the roof, which basically zeroed out their electric bills. While they rely on the grid when the sun is down — they don’t have battery storage for their sun-generated electricity — the panels can often put kilowatts into the grid during daylight hours, and they’re credited on a one-to-one basis for that power.

“The solar was actually more of an economic play, because we knew that electrifying our home would do most of the work in decarbonizing,” Shea said. The Sheas pay their utility just $8 a month to maintain their grid connection.

The heat pump provides a comfortable heat comparable to that of the furnace, except that the system tends to “run slower longer,” Shea said. “So there’s kind of more constant airflow through the home, versus the furnace that would sort of come on and blast super-high heat for small periods of time and then turn off.” They’ve only had to use electric resistance backup heating once, he said, during a two-day period of below-zero temperatures.

Shea said electrifying the system helped him move toward a personal goal of reducing his carbon footprint as well as provided real-life experience with the concepts he deals with at RMI.

“Since my work ... is all about calculating the cost and climate benefits of different upgrades, doing it in my own home was just a great learning opportunity,” he said.