Everyone’s Pumped About Heat Pumps

People everywhere are hot for heat pumps. These electric appliances—which perform the same heating and cooling tasks as traditional HVAC systems, just much more efficiently—have been outselling gas furnaces for the past couple of years. Their proliferation seems to be pointing toward a more energy-conscious electric future in people’s homes. And four months ago, nine states in the US signed a memorandum of understanding saying that heat pumps should make up at least 65 percent of residential heating, air-conditioning, and water-heating shipments by 2030.

But, what exactly is a heat pump? How does it work? How much does it cost to replace your furnace with one, and how much money does making the switch actually save you in the long run? Let’s also consider the same question we’re asking about AI: How much will this change or displace existing jobs for the people who have been trained to install and service traditional HVAC systems?

WIRED staff writer Matt Simon is our in-house heat pump expert. He joins us this week to tell us everything we need to know about these appliances he calls “climate superheroes.”

Show Notes

Read all of our heat pump coverage. Don’t miss Matt’s story about the heat pump technician shortage. Matt also took a look at the in-window heat pumps now hitting the market that look and operate like in-window AC units. WIRED’s Rhett Alain digs into the physics of heat pumps.


Matt recommends the book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, by Edward Slingerland. Mike recommends the book Rebel Girl: My Life as a Feminist Punk, by Kathleen Hanna. Lauren recommends taking a staycation.

Matt Simon can be found on social media @mrmattsimon. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Lauren Goode: Mike

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Do you have heat pumps in your home?

Michael Calore: No, I don’t. Partly because I rent, and I don’t have much control over the things that are in my apartment, but if I did own a home, I would get one.

Lauren Goode: Same. Yeah. They seem like a worthwhile investment.

Michael Calore: They do.

Lauren Goode: And for what it’s worth, our readers at WIRED seem to be really, really, really into heat pumps.

Michael Calore: Yep. Whenever we write stories about them, those stories do very, very well with our readers.

Lauren Goode: We don’t actually write about them.

Michael Calore: Right. Matt. Matt does.

Lauren Goode: Matt does. So maybe we should bring Matt on to talk about why everyone’s talking about heat pumps and what they even are.

Michael Calore: Please.

Lauren Goode: Let’s do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Lauren Goode: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I’m Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: And I’m Michael Calore. I’m WIRED’s director of consumer tech and culture.

Lauren Goode: We’re also joined this week by WIRED senior writer Matt Simon. Hey, Matt.

Matt Simon: Hello. Good to be here, as always.

Lauren Goode: Thanks for joining us.

Matt Simon: Talking about something not catastrophic and depressing for once.

Michael Calore: For once.

Lauren Goode: For once. We’re going to get to that. Don’t you worry, Matt, it wouldn’t be the same without having you join us as Mr. Doomsday, would it?

Matt Simon: No, I wouldn’t have agreed to come on here unless I could depress people in some way, shape, or form.

Lauren Goode: Let’s put a pin in it. We’re going to talk about heat pumps today, if that’s OK. People are hot for heat pumps.

Matt Simon: Very.

Lauren Goode: I’m sorry.

Matt Simon: No.

Lauren Goode: Couldn’t help myself.

Matt Simon: It’s a weirdly popular appliance. Not like a refrigerator is boring, ovens are boring, heat pumps are very exciting, very hot right now.

Lauren Goode: Heat pumps are very sexy. They’re outselling furnaces, gas furnaces, for the past couple of years. They point towards an energy-efficient electric future in people’s homes.

And then Matt, you wrote about how four months ago, nine states in the US signed a memorandum of understanding, which is basically a fancy handshake, that says that heat pumps should make up at least 65 percent of residential heating, air-conditioning, and water-heating shipments by 2023. But today we want to talk about what exactly is a heat pump, how it works, how much it costs to replace your gas furnace with one, how much money does it actually save people? And then also like AI, how much of this is going to change or displace jobs for people who have been trained in traditional HVAC systems forever?

OK, so tell us everything we need to know. Let’s start with the physics of a heat pump and how it works.

Matt Simon: Sure. So when we think about typical ways to heat a home in the United States at least, we’ve been using gas furnaces for decades, a very long time now. That is obviously generating heat. A heat pump actually works in a fundamentally different way, in that it moves heat from one place to another. So most of them come in the form of something that looks a lot like an air conditioner. So you have a unit outside and then a unit inside. What you’re doing is you are taking that outside air, even if it is very frigid and freezing in fact, you can extract warmth from that. Even if it feels really, really cold to us, just the physics involved, there’s always thermal energy above, I believe –460 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lauren Goode: So it’s like someone has a cold, dead heart and you’re like, I can find the warmth in it?

Matt Simon: If you are patient enough and you have the physics down correctly, yes. So what a heat pump can do is, using refrigerants, compressing those refrigerants. It’s moving heat from the outside to the inside, instead of burning a fossil fuel like a furnace would. And then in the summer, it reverses it. It acts like an air conditioner. So if you get a heat pump, you get a built-in air conditioner essentially. So this comes in two main forms. The one I’ve been talking about here, it looks like an air conditioner. It’s an air-source heat pump.

They also make ones that extract warmth from the ground. So once you go a couple of feet down, it actually stays a fairly steady temperature for most of the year. So it’s this piping that runs through your backyard. It’s more expensive to do it that way, but it’s a really clever way to use the earth itself as a way to heat your home.

There are also new generations of heat pumps coming out that fit over window sills. So you’ve seen millions of these air-conditioning units in New York or elsewhere. They’re stuck into windows. Essentially the same thing. It’s a U-shape that fits over the window. So there’s still that outside component and an inside component. You’re exchanging heat from the outside to the inside, but also in the summer, reversing it. And in a place like New York, people that don’t have air-conditioning that get this sort of heat pump, they all of a sudden have something that heats and cools, depending on the time of year.

So this is an exciting time in heat pump technology. It’s been around for decades. We’ve had this technology all along. And it has really been actually taking off in Europe. I think as of, I believe it was 2021, Norway had heat pumps in 60 percent of their households. So this is a common criticism of heat pumps that they don’t work in cold weather, absolutely false. They work down to very, very frigid temperatures, and the fact that they’re being deployed in places like Alaska, they’re selling like hotcakes as well. This is a technology that’s going to allow us to put a huge dent in the emissions that are associated with heating homes and businesses all over the world. We’re at the beginning of a revolution here, and that’s why I like writing about it, and maybe that’s why readers like reading about it.

Michael Calore: Maybe. I think maybe they’re also interested that you’re trying to save them money. But I want to talk about that climate thing because you’ve called them, you’ve called heat pumps, climate superheroes. What is it about heating and air-conditioning that is so bad, and why are heat pumps so much better in the environment?

Matt Simon: Yeah, so when we think about a gas furnace, first of all, it’s inefficient to burn gas to produce heat. When you do that, you actually lose a good amount of the heat just in burning it. I think you’re transferring about 80 percent of the heat into the indoor space pumping through a ducting system, for example. That’s inefficient. In addition to that being a poisonous gas that we would really rather not have in our homes, the future is just not having gas in homes anymore. We can electrify everything, and in fact, we have to in order to massively reduce the amount of emissions that we have in the residential and business sectors.

So a heat pump is going to be absolutely critical going forward, because we’re going to have a grid that is run basically entirely on renewables in the near future. We’re going to have solar and wind. We’re going to have a lot of storage. So giant batteries, for instance, that can store up solar energy for nighttime when the sun isn’t shining. I did publish a story last week, folks might’ve read about this technology called V2G, vehicle-to-grid, where they’re experimenting with turning every electric vehicle into essentially a battery power backup for the grid. So we’re going to be shifting more and more to renewables on the grid, and as we do that, we don’t want to be burning fossil fuels in homes anymore. We want to be pulling from that renewable energy with heat pumps. So you can theoretically get your home to a point where you’re on solar power and you have a battery and you have a vehicle in your garage that the utility can call on every once in a while when there’s a lot of demand on the grid. So there’s going to be this more active participation of a household in the grid, whereas up until this point, we’ve just been consumers.

Heat pumps are going to be a part of that because there will probably be circumstances where a consumer can opt into a program from a utility where they can manually turn their thermostat up or down to lessen demand on the grid. So it’s a more malleable system that’s going to be powered entirely by renewables, and heat pumps is going to be a critical factor in that we just have to stop burning gas.

Lauren Goode: Let’s talk about singular homes. And so a singular heat pump, how much does it cost to replace your gas furnace with a heat pump, and how much can people expect to save once they’ve done that?

Matt Simon: It’s really going to depend on the place you are and the size of your home. So if you live in a mansion, you’re going to need a much bigger heat pump that’s going to be more expensive to properly cover that square footage. If you are looking at these sorts of window units that are starting to come out now, those I believe are going to be priced around $5,000, $6,000. That’s for a single room. You might have a situation in a home where you don’t have ducting, you don’t have a central system. They make these units that attach to walls. So like the window unit, only it’s cut into the wall. You would put one of those in individual rooms instead of a central system.

So this is going to depend. I mean $5,000 for those simple units up to $10-, $15,000 depending on how big your home is. We also have to talk about, because this being an electric device, in some circumstances, if it’s going to be a bigger heat pump, you might need electrical upgrades for your home. That is what I’m in the middle of right now, which is not a particularly fun time in a place like San Francisco. They make it as difficult as possible, which should not be the case.

So you are seeing though that there’s more support on the federal and state level with rebates. So the Inflation Reduction Act passed a couple of years ago, provides I believe $7,500 in rebates for a heat pump, which is going to cover a good chunk of that. You could probably get more rebates from your state. The momentum is building here. The prices are coming down. We do have somewhat of a labor problem. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. The thing that’s holding back heat pumps right now is not the technology itself. It’s a borderline miraculous technology. The way that it can heat a space so efficiently, we need to train many, many more people to install these things and maintain them. Hopefully that’s coming in the United States in the coming years, but it’s going to take a coordinated effort. But this is actually working already on the state and federal level.

Lauren Goode: And is the idea that you take technicians who are already trained in HVAC systems and say, “Let’s add this to your repertoire”? There aren’t people who are just heat pump specialists?

Matt Simon: Yes. Right. So I come from a long line of HVAC people. My grandfather owned an HVAC company. My aunt now owns it. My dad was an HVAC guy for his whole career. He was trained in doing ducting, but also installing HVAC systems. Generally, because it is so much like an air-conditioning unit, it will take one or two days to retrain a person who has been trained in fossil fuel systems to do heat pumps. It is not extraordinarily difficult. It’s basically the same unit, but it’s all in one. So it heats and cools. It just flips around in the summertime. So there are a lot of programs that people can pursue in the United States—technical schools, community colleges just train people up in HVAC generally, but we already have a big workforce in the United States of HVAC people who can retrain off of fossil fuel systems into heat pumps. That’s where the momentum is. You mentioned that heat pumps are now outselling gas furnaces in the United States. There’s no reason to believe that that is going to reverse in the coming years.

In Europe, you’ll find in more mature markets, Nordic countries actually of all places, yet another piece of evidence that heat pumps work perfectly fine in cold climates. They are very, very mature markets in those Nordic countries. They fixed their labor problem. It’s not an issue anymore. It’s just going to take some time to catch up.

Michael Calore: So how much can people save by installing one in their house?

Matt Simon: Generally around $550 a year by one calculation. They’re such efficient devices that even if you had to run heat pumps on a fossil fuel energy grid, you’re still much better off than having gas furnaces in people’s home. But it will save the average household hundreds of dollars a year.

Lauren Goode: OK. We’re going to talk more about the future of heat pumps and also Matt’s future when we come back after the break.

Michael Calore: You make it sound like we’re going to roast and eat him.

Lauren Goode: Maybe just the roast part.


Lauren Goode: OK. So we do have some news to share on this podcast episode, but it’s sad news. Matt here is actually leaving us at WIRED, which is partly why we wanted to invite him on for this week’s episode, not just because we love heat pumps. Matt, have you announced where you’re going next?

Matt Simon: I have, yes.

Lauren Goode: Tell the people.

Matt Simon: I’m going to Grist, which is a fantastic climate-centered news organization. I will be covering stuff like this, heat pumps. I’ll be a climate solutions reporter.

Michael Calore: How dare you?

Matt Simon: I know. How dare I?

Lauren Goode: We miss you already.

Matt Simon: I’ve been at WIRED for 12 years, just extraordinarily grateful for all the opportunities. Beyond coming on the Gadget Lab podcast regularly, it has been just a hell of a time. I’ve loved it, but it is time for other pastures.

Lauren Goode: And there’s a possibility that we might still see your byline on WIRED too, right?

Matt Simon: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Because there’s a partnership here.

Matt Simon: Grist and WIRED are part of a consortium, I guess you would call it. These websites that are part of the Climate Desk collaboration. So my stories from WIRED have appeared on Grist. And who knows, maybe Grist will send some WIRED’s way in the future, unless you are really angry at me and don’t want to see my name or byline ever again.

Lauren Goode: It depends on the rest of this podcast.

Matt Simon: And I understand how badly I screw things up for the rest of the podcast. Yeah, we’ll see. But I’m going to miss you all. It’s been a whirlwind. A lot of things have happened in the past 12 years, both worldwide and personal-wise, and I had a good time. It was fun.

Lauren Goode: You’ve done a tremendous job at WIRED.

Matt Simon: Thank you.

Lauren Goode: We really are going to miss you. We wanted to ask you a couple more questions about heat bumps, and then we’re going to circle back to the whole you’re-leaving-WIRED thing.

Matt Simon: Cool. Sure.

Lauren Goode: All right. OK. So Mike, you had a really good question, which is basically like, what’s the long-term vision for these, right? What’s the 10-year future?

Michael Calore: Yes. Particularly because for the most part, we’re talking about homes and apartments, but what about institutions? Are schools going to get heat pumps? Hospitals, movie theaters, casinos? Are we going to be using these in all of the places that are big public air-conditioned spaces?

Matt Simon: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Like this lovely industrial WIRED office that, good luck with our plumbing.

Michael Calore: Yeah, these are old buildings. They have windows that leak heat.

Lauren Goode: The windows. Yeah, totally. Exactly.

Matt Simon: Yes. Big heat pumps. Big heat pumps are most certainly things. So yeah, you can size them up, and they can heat and cool very, very large spaces. You are also seeing heat pumps show up in tiny places, much smaller than a home. They’re in electric vehicles. There are ways that they’re rolling out. I got a pitch about one that’s in a dishwasher now. So basically think of where you’re generating heat typically, that might well be replaced with a heat pump in the future. So all structures are going to be able to run on heat pumps. It’s just a matter of time, because we have to get these. Look, gas boilers can’t be a thing anymore in five years. It shouldn’t be a thing now, but much less in five years or 10 years.

Lauren Goode: How long will they last for?

Matt Simon: That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I would assume that, I mean, they’re not wildly complex devices. It’s basically an air conditioner. They have technicians that can very much service these going forward. Like what my family was doing all those decades. Yeah. And they’re just becoming so popular, and I think there’s a lot of competition in that space, and you’re just going to get better and better devices, they’re going to get more and more efficient, more and more convenient slipping over window sills or whatnot. The industry is taking off. It’ll actually be really interesting to see where it goes, even five years from now.

Lauren Goode: You know what I’m curious about?

Michael Calore: What’s that?

Lauren Goode: Is there a Mr. or Mrs. Heat Pump who just came up with this whole idea and is now richer than Elon Musk and we’ve never heard of them. Who came up with this?

Matt Simon: It’s very old. Yeah, it’s been on for quite some time. It’s not new. It’s just like, we’re just hearing about it now because of decarbonization. This whole time we have had this technology that is, again, borderline miraculous, because it runs just on electricity. But because fossil fuels have been relatively cheap, we’ve decided as Americans that we want to burn that poisonous gas in our homes. The future is now. I don’t know who invented it, but I hope they’re getting the props they deserve.

Lauren Goode: You’re welcome for your first Grist story.

Matt Simon: Sure. Yeah. And then we can maybe get them a statue somewhere.

Michael Calore: Put them next to Mr. Coffee and Mr. Peanut, whoever they are.

Lauren Goode: I really want to know. There has to be a movie in that, whoever invented the heat pump. Inevitably there was big energy coming after them and squashing their ideas or stealing their IP or something like that. It was probably a woman, and a man took the idea.

Michael Calore: Probably.

Lauren Goode: What were you going to ask Mike?

Michael Calore: So we talked a little bit about Norway, and we talked about the United States. What are other countries doing to incentivize people to switch from fossil fuels to electric heat pumps? And are there tax breaks involved for Americans? Are there tax breaks that are notable or incentives or rebates elsewhere in the world that we can look at and maybe copy?

Matt Simon: Yeah, I mean, this is what other countries have done, in Europe in particular. I mean, they’ve helped solve the labor problem in particular, which is really what gets that market going, with national training programs, like Germany has better national trade programs than we do in the United States. We just have this, again, slapdash way of doing things. Go to trade school, go to community college or whatever. So we’re lagging behind on the workforce. And I think, as I mentioned before, once those markets matured by way of tax breaks, that labor market’s going to catch up, and that’s really going to be what takes off. I would argue that the tax breaks and credits that I mentioned in the IRA that passed a couple of years ago are just not enough. We’re finding that in our processes that we were expecting more money from the government, and this needs to become a thing that is actually incentivized by just giving the things out.

It would not be that expensive in the grand scheme of things to give a lot of people $5,000 heat pumps for their homes. So the New York City Housing Authority has been piloting this for their residents. They’re dropping them into the units for free. We’re going to get a whole lot of movement in that way. If we can, first of all, get these people comfortable summers in addition, reversing in the summer to provide cooling. But as more people hear about it, there’s going to be more competition in the space. The prices are going to come down more and more. As they’re getting more efficient, there’s going to be better stuff for people to use. But countries in Europe have thrown money at the issue, which we tend not to do in the United States. We don’t like giving people money to do good things for the planet and for their human health, but we need much more of that. We’ll see more of that with that consortium of nine states that got together earlier this year. They’re going to collaborate, talk about ways to incentivize with rebates, but also ways to train more people up, that sort of thing. Yeah. Look to those mature markets like in Norway, Sweden, Finland. They got it right and they’re loving it. There’s a reason that so many people have heat pumps in cold climates.

Lauren Goode: Is that why they’re so happy? Because they have heat pumps?

Matt Simon: It’s part of the reason.

Lauren Goode: Scandinavian countries?

Matt Simon: It’s also because they have social services.

Lauren Goode: Oh, explain those. We should you do a whole podcast on this?

Matt Simon: They have a government that gives a damn about them. It seems like we’re lagging a bit behind in that sort of thing in the United States. We should just give everybody a heat pump. And if all the billionaires got together, pooled their money, and got everybody a heat pump, my goodness.

Michael Calore: A loaf of bread on every table, an electric vehicle in every garage, and a heat pump in the wall.

Lauren Goode: Should be like a graduation gift or a bat mitzvah gift or something. Here’s your heat pump. I love it.

Well, Matt, we can’t let you go without some final commentary on your time here at WIRED. For those of you listening who have been longtime listeners of the show, you know that when Matt has joined us before, we have called him Mr. Doomsday, and for good reason. No, it’s not just because he is incredibly dry-humored when he’s here in the office, which by the way is rare. No, it’s not just because he’s harvesting worms and growing all of his own vegetables in his backyard, because he believes there might be an apocalypse at some point.

Matt Simon: I just like worms too, though. I think they’re neat. It’s not just because of the doomsday.

Lauren Goode: I’ve seen the worms.

Michael Calore: Especially if their nervous systems have been overtaken by some sort of zombie fungus.

Matt Simon: Or microplastics.

Lauren Goode: Or microplastics. Well, that’s what we’re getting to. We call you Mr. Doomsday because you’re always, always delivering the bad news to us. And earlier this week, there were reports that researchers found microplastics in human testicles as well as dogs in every sample they took. It was a small sample of 23 humans, 47 dogs, and there’s still a lot of research to be done, but it raises the possibility that this could be lowering sperm count. I just wanted to point out that Matt here, back in 2019, joined us on a show that was titled, “You’ve Got Microplastics.” So Matt’s been telling us since before the pandemic that microplastics are completely inescapable. They’re in our water, they’re in the air we breathe, and basically we’re all going to die. So thanks Matt. We’re really going to miss you.

Matt Simon: Well, I like to go out on that note. That’s great. You’re welcome. I hate to say I told you so, but microplastics are all up inside you.

Michael Calore: My favorite thing that you did here at WIRED was Footnotes.

Matt Simon: Oh my God.

Michael Calore: I mean, I love all your climate reporting, but I always think of you, of Matt from Footnotes, and this was, I mean, this was a very long time ago. This is a decade or longer ago, you had a YouTube series. Tell us about what that was like.

Matt Simon: Yeah, I’ve forgotten about it. It was when I first started at WIRED really. I’d pick weird things out from stories, interesting phrases, and go through the origin of them. And yeah, that’s back in the old WIRED days where things were just a little bit wild. We just did whatever we wanted. There was no oversight. It was a great time.

Michael Calore: I mean, your role at the time I think was web producer?

Matt Simon: Yeah.

Michael Calore: Is that right? You had the job of making sure that when the stories appeared on the homepage, they appeared in an order that was appealing. So when you load, you see a good mix of stories. And you were also sort of the lord of the headline for us. So you would help us as editors craft good headlines. Some of that involved copy editing the headlines, and I remember you were always complaining that people always forgot to cap the word from. It gets a capital F. So in our style, most every news organization has the same style, where if it’s a word that’s four letters long, you have to capitalize it no matter how inessential the word feels. So people would always deprioritize the word from by not capitalizing it. And you would always just say, “Cap from. Cap from.” And you typed it so often that I felt like you should get maybe knuckle tattoos. Cap from.

Matt Simon: I would like that you would be the only two other people who would know what my tattoo meant. But then I guess now the listeners of the Gadget Lab podcast.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Matt Simon: Somebody needs to stand up for the word from.

Michael Calore: From. Yeah.

Matt Simon: I was happy to do that.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: You also did the Weird Creature series.

Matt Simon: Creature of the Week.

Lauren Goode: What was your favorite creature?

Matt Simon: I think the most hilarious one is the fish that swims up the sea cucumber’s butthole.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Matt Simon: It is a specific fish where this is what it specializes in. It finds a sea cucumber, and literally swims up its butt and then eats its internal organs, including its gonads, and just lives inside the cucumber, which is the ultimate indignity.

So when you’re feeling down about microplastics or the state of the planet, generally, just remember that you’re not a sea cucumber with a fish up your butt all the time. It just stays there. It doesn’t leave.

Michael Calore: In your gonads.

Lauren Goode: So the sea.

Matt Simon: Yeah, I think we made a gif out of it from the story too.

Lauren Goode: Is that just a parasite?

Matt Simon: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, through and through. I think if you find the story that we made a gif out it, I’m pretty sure.

Lauren Goode: This was turned into a Netflix series?

Matt Simon: It was. Yeah, Absurd Planet. Did it show up in the series? I don’t remember. But plot twist, sea cucumbers for I think a variety of reasons have evolved teeth around their buttholes so that you look at a sea cucumber’s butthole, it doesn’t look like our teeth, but it has vaguely teeth. I’m pretty sure it evolved as a defense for things trying to swim up its butt all the time.

Michael Calore: Sure. Butthole edentata.

Matt Simon: Yeah.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Matt Simon: It said no more of that. I’m going to involve some teeth on my butt. It’s on the wrong end, by the way. You only need teeth on the other end of the body for eating.

Lauren Goode: I hope the Grist people aren’t listening to this and rethinking everything.

Matt Simon: You know what?

Michael Calore: I hope they are.

Matt Simon: I don’t want to be part of an organization, if it doesn’t appreciate sea cucumber butts.

Lauren Goode: I’m crying right now. OK. Pull it together.

Michael Calore: She’s crying because you’re leaving.

Lauren Goode: I am. I’m so sad. Matt, we have so much to talk about. All right. This was really wonderful. I think we gave you a proper send-off.

Matt Simon: Thank you.

Lauren Goode: As you can tell, we’re not very good at the roasting phase. I really started with a roast and then talking about the fact that you never came into the office, and then I was like, no, we’re just too nice. We’re going to miss Matt so much.

Matt Simon: I’m going to miss you too. This among the many highlights here. I really love coming here and hopefully not bringing people down too much, but maybe some cautionary tales, but some hope by way of heat pumps that things are moving in the right direction, and that’s maybe what I’d like to leave you with.

Lauren Goode: Well, you’re going to leave us with a recommendation, so let’s take a quick break and we’ll come back and do those.


Lauren Goode: Matt, as our guest of honor, who’s on his way out the door, what is your final recommendation for the Gadget Lab?

Matt Simon: I am reading something upbeat at the moment, which is rare for me. It’s called Drunk: How We Sipped Danced and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization. It’s a really interesting book making the argument that it was really alcohol that made us human in a lot of ways, as detrimental as it is for our health and in a lot of ways for our society. It’s a really interesting exploration of how it has been this foundational aspect of different cultures around the world. It leads to bonding and cohesion, but also obviously the bad stuff like health effects, and it’s fascinating. And it’s just thinking about the first person that picked up a fermented fruit and chugged it down and just went on a journey. Here we are today with our wonderful civilization.

Michael Calore: And ended up buying a bunch of stuff they don’t need on Amazon at 4:00 am.

Matt Simon: Right.

Michael Calore: Yeah. Who wrote it? What’s the author’s name?

Matt Simon: The author is Edward Slingerland.

Michael Calore: Nice. Just like the drum set.

Matt Simon: I don’t know what that means, but yes. You’re the musician.

Lauren Goode: Have you recommended that book to Jason Kehe? Because he is—

Matt Simon: I actually spoke to him about it.

Lauren Goode: Very against the abstinence movement.

Matt Simon: Yeah, I just spoke to him about that mere minutes ago.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, and what did he say?

Matt Simon: He agreed with me, which is the correct position to take.

Lauren Goode: That’s right.

Matt Simon: Always agree with me.

Lauren Goode: Always agree with Matt.

Matt Simon: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. You’re going to do well at Grist.

Matt Simon: Thanks.

Lauren Goode: Thank you for that, Matt.

Matt Simon: Certainly.

Lauren Goode: It’s a good thing that we’ll toast to you.

Matt Simon: Thank you.

Lauren Goode: In honor of.

Matt Simon: We all have water, we can.

Lauren Goode: That’s right. We do. Where’s mine? Anyway.

Matt Simon: It doesn’t hit the same though.

Lauren Goode: You’re not going to stumble out of the studio. Mike, what’s your recommendation?

Michael Calore: I’m also going to recommend a book that I’m reading. I’m almost done with it. It’s called Rebel Girl: My Life as a Feminist Punk, by Kathleen Hanna. If you don’t know Kathleen Hanna, she is a feminist punk icon. She was a singer in a band called Bikini Kill—I should say, is the singer in Bikini Kill because they’re touring again. She’s also a singer in Le Tigre, and she is the creative force behind The Julie Ruin, which is one of the great fun bands of the 1990s.

Kathleen is really a very, very important person in the world of punk music and alternative music, but particularly of women in punk rock and women in rock music. She’s very outspoken. She has a lot of really great ideas. She’s been a very powerful force for change in the industry over the last 30 years, particularly holding up people and scenes and particular movements as important and forcing everybody to pay attention. So this is her life story.

It is not entirely fun to read. There’s a lot of pain in the book. There’s a lot of really terrible things that happened to her and the people close to her, and she recounts all of them with this very detailed and very, I don’t know. It’s emotional. It’s an emotional read. I have to put it down after about 45 minutes or an hour or so, to not fully live inside of it, but it is very well written, it’s a very good and interesting story, and her observations about culture and about how women are sidelined in all aspects of culture and how to empower women to stand up for themselves and for each other. All of it is very inspirational. I say this as a man, but I enjoyed it, so I want everybody to read it, and she’s having a moment. She’s on all the talk shows. She’s on Fresh Air. I’m talking about her on this show.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. You recommended a podcast episode with her too.

Michael Calore: I did, yeah.

Lauren Goode: Was it the Fresh Air one?

Michael Calore: Yeah. To you. Yeah. Yeah, because you were like, “Who is Kathleen Hannah?” I’m like, “Oh, you got to check her out.” So yeah, I think she was on another podcast last week. Anyway, the book is brand-new. You can get it as an ebook or an audiobook. She reads it, and if you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, I think you can listen to it as part of your subscription, so I would recommend doing that. That’s how I’m enjoying it, in her voice.

Matt Simon: I think I saw that at Green Apple actually.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Matt Simon: San Francisco local people might be able to find it there.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Matt Simon: You should be there. Anyway. It’s a great bookstore.

Lauren Goode: Oh yeah. We just walked by it the other day.

Michael Calore: Yeah, it’s the best. One of the best in the world.

Lauren Goode: You had a great story about the book that you let go.

Michael Calore: Oh, yeah.

Lauren Goode: And it came back to you.

Michael Calore: Yeah. Between the Clock and the Bed?

Lauren Goode: That’s right.

Michael Calore: Edvard Munch. Yeah. That’s a boring story though.

Lauren Goode: I enjoyed it.

Michael Calore: Glad you did.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: What is your recommendation?

Lauren Goode: My recommendation, I just came up with this, because I came into the studio today without one prepared. Staycations.

Michael Calore: Say more.

Matt Simon: You mean as a concept or as a piece of media?

Lauren Goode: Oh, as a concept. Is there a piece of media called Staycations?

Matt Simon: I don’t know.

Lauren Goode: Is that like a magazine? We should start one.

Matt Simon: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: I like that idea. It’s a great time in media to be starting magazines. Staycation, so I have a good friend who has been loaning me access to her home office, and it’s great because it is not far from where I live, but sometimes on weekends I go there and it’s a different perspective. It’s a different place. I’m not thinking about laundry or cleaning or to-do’s or whatever I have to order from or whatever it is. I’m away, but I’m not far, and I really appreciate that. It’s been really head clearing. I’m also working on a book, so it’s helpful for that. I mean, that’s the primary thing.

But then also in the past couple months, I’ve had the opportunity to stay just north of here, like 30 minutes, and so I’m away, but I’m not away away, and it’s great. It’s just, get away for a staycation if you can. If you have the means, if you have friends who are saying, “Hey, I need someone to pet sit,” or “Do you want to take over my house for a weekend?” Or something like that. Just do it. Stay local, but just get a totally different perspective on where you live, your neighborhood, the people around you, try new restaurants, new venues, just yeah, do a staycation if you can.

Michael Calore: Nice.

Lauren Goode: They’re really great,

Matt Simon: And if you forget your shampoo, you can just go home, pick up your shampoo. Not on the other side of the country.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Matt does that because he stuffs a lot of weed in his shampoo bottles.

Matt Simon: Well, I also don’t have hair, so I don’t use shampoo.

Lauren Goode: The weed reference came up earlier, before the show, but yes. Yeah. Or things like, I have a pet, so sometimes I have to pop back and feed the pet and that sort of thing. I just love a good staycation now.

Michael Calore: OK. Staycations Magazine.

Lauren Goode: Staycations Magazine.

Michael Calore: Got it.

Lauren Goode: We’ll be the cofounders. Thirty years from now, people will be saying, “Oh, remember when Mike and Matt and Lauren started Staycations? It just hasn’t been the same since those founders were here.”

Michael Calore: Wait, we’re inviting him to be part of it?

Lauren Goode: Yeah. He’s part of having a climate friendly staycation.

Michael Calore: Oh, OK.

Lauren Goode: How you can do it without polluting,or?

Michael Calore: Putting gas in the car.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, increasing your carbon footprint.

Matt Simon: Sounds like Mike doesn’t want me, but I will say that I can offer worms if you just want to come out in the garden and look at worms.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Matt is basically offering his place. He’s saying the next time he goes out of town, as long as you don’t mind coming to take care of the earthworms and doing some tilling and weeding and things like that, and also maybe just maintaining his heat pump. You’re welcome to stay at Matt’s place for a staycation. The only thing I’ll say about your neighborhood is it’s very foggy.

Matt Simon: It does get a bit foggy.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, it’s cold.

Matt Simon: Yeah, but the worms like it. They don’t like when it gets too hot, I think. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but …

Michael Calore: Maybe you should get them a heat pump.

Matt Simon: I have a little compost bin. Attach a little heat pump to the compost bin so they can stay nice and comfortable.

Lauren Goode: All right, that’s our show. Matt, thank you again for joining us. Not just this episode, but throughout the years.

Matt Simon: Thank you for having me throughout the years. It has been real. Sorry to leave you, but we shall meet again. Mostly because we live in the same city, but maybe professionally as well.

Michael Calore: OK …

Lauren Goode: Sounds good. And thanks to all of you for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on all the socials. Just check the show notes, leave us a review. If you are enjoying the show, we love your reviews. Mike always mentions, I love the reviews. Our producer is Boone Ashworth, who gets a special shout-out today because he’s really not feeling well. So Boone, we hope you feel better.

We are off. Next week we’ll be running another episode of the Gadget Lab that we think you will enjoy, and we’ll be back in studio the week after that. Goodbye for now.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]

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