Lessons from the Field: April Whole-Home Heat Pump Pilot Update

Meg Howard, Program Manager

MassCEC's whole-home air-source heat pump pilot program has been running for about nine months now. We currently have 50 approved projects, with 26 existing building retrofits and 24 new construction or gut rehab projects.

Project applications have slowed but not stopped since the start of the COVID-19 impacts on Massachusetts (discussed more below). We have plenty of funding for new projects before the pilot ends on June 30th, 2020. I want to emphasize that projects do not need to be installed by the end of June; MassCEC just needs to approve the application by then. If you are a homeowner or installer working on a potential whole-home air-source heat pump project, and you’re not sure if you will be able to meet the June 30th deadline, please email me and we can talk through options.

For the April blog update, I want to focus on a new outreach campaign that MassCEC has launched, as well as the continued impacts of COVID-19 on the air-source heat pump industry in Massachusetts. Neither of these topics is a direct update on the whole-home pilot, but they both provide important context for the goals of the whole-home pilot. See our previous monthly blog updates for more case studies, data, and even an animated GIF on whole-home heat pump projects.

Clean Energy Lives Here

Last week, on Earth Day, MassCEC launched a public awareness campaign called Clean Energy Lives Here. The campaign aims to raise awareness of clean heating and cooling systems and other clean energy technologies that are modern substitutes for carbon-intensive, fossil fueled home systems and appliances. The campaign website includes customer-facing resources on air-source heat pumps

  • Your Guide to Air-Source Heat Pumps: This guide provides an overview of air-source heat pump technology, costs, incentives, benefits, and operating tips. It also includes a list of questions for homeowners to ask an installer.
  • Clean Energy Ready: This guide provides tips for homeowners to make a plan to transition their home to clean heating and cooling solutions like air-source heat pumps.

These resources are also available on the campaign’s air-source heat pump landing page.

Additionally, the campaign includes resources on electrifying other residential energy uses that have traditionally relied on direct fossil fuel combustion.

All of these resources are synthesized in the Introduction to the Clean Energy Home that provides an overview of technologies available to transition your home to clean energy, a framework for making those upgrades, and links to more in depth resources for each specific home upgrade. 

COVID-19 Update

In the March blog update, I talked about a few changes MassCEC had made to the whole-home pilot to be more flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

My colleagues have put together two blogs with relevant information: one about clean energy permitting and inspections during the pandemic, and another about Small Business Administration resources through the federal CARES act

Mass Save has a put together a great list of resources for the pandemic, relevant to both contractors and residents. In particular, I want to highlight that Mass Save is offering customers virtual home energy assessments with a limited time offer of 100% off approved insulation. Well-insulated homes are much better candidates for whole-home heat pumps because they maintain a much more even temperature throughout the home, allowing fewer or smaller heat pumps to keep the home at an even, comfortable temperature.

MassCEC has been surveying installers every other week, and we continue to hear that companies are seeing a slowdown of their business (if not a complete halt) and many have had to do furloughs and layoffs. As of our most recent survey last week, some companies have started to receive federal support, mostly in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program, although other companies are still waiting on approvals. This is a precarious moment for clean energy companies, and my colleagues and I want to do everything we can to ensure that you have the tools to persevere through this challenging time.