A cleaner, cheaper approach to heating and cooling


Massachusetts is a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. Residents and business owners across the commonwealth have helped the state achieve significant gains in energy efficiency and carbon reduction. But we still have a long way to go if we are to leave our children and grandchildren with a planet that is healthier than the one we have today. Earth Week is often a time we ask ourselves what we, as individuals, can do to reduce energy use, save money, protect our environment, and combat climate change.
One answer is to rethink how we heat and cool our buildings. Heating buildings contributes over a quarter of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions — second only to transportation. According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ Comprehensive Energy Plan, cost-effective clean heating and cooling technologies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of your neighbors are already moving in that direction. Since 2013, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has helped over 20,000 residents and businesses install these technologies. One of those projects includes a recent Habitat for Humanity construction project in Barnstable.
These five newly constructed homes were built to provide affordable housing for low-income families, and will use only air-source heat pumps to provide heating and cooling for each building. By embracing this whole-home approach, these houses will be more energy-efficient compared with conventional new homes, and provide their occupants with a high-quality heating solution. Air-source heat pumps also reduce energy costs relative to high-cost heating fuels like oil, propane, and electric resistance, which are common on Cape Cod and other regions of the state, like Western Massachusetts.
MassCEC is looking to support more whole-home projects through our new Whole-Home Air-Source Heat Pump pilot program, which will be available for new-construction homes — and existing homes that are served by natural gas (off-Island) — in the coming weeks. Through this pilot program, MassCEC will provide rebates to homeowners who use only high-efficiency air-source heat pumps to heat their homes.
To qualify for the program, new homes must be entirely free of fossil fuel heating, and existing homes will need to show that they can provide all heating needs using heat pumps. Standard rebates will range from $2,500 to $5,000 based on income level.
These technologies can comfortably heat homes while reducing emissions by 30 to 70 percent, which represents an astounding opportunity to reduce emissions in the heating sector. And as the electricity mix incorporates more renewable electricity in the coming decades, heat pumps will only become cleaner.
While many projects today install heat pumps in conjunction with existing heating systems, these whole-home projects will demonstrate the next generation of heating — where heating and cooling is done entirely by the heat pump. This will lead to reduced costs for the homeowner, lower emissions for the commonwealth, and provide an economic boost to the state’s clean heating and cooling industry.
Through this whole-home pilot, we’re modeling an innovative heating solution and helping the state meet its climate change goals. We look forward to working with residents across the commonwealth who are interested in saving money while reducing their carbon footprint.

Stephen Pike is CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.



  1. You can do all you want if you think it will make a difference but it will not. China and India and other Asia Pacific countries are increasing emissions and do more than the US and EU combined. You can worry that the world will end but the desire for fossil fuels is great especially in developing countries to lift people out of poverty. Fiddling around with local solar panels and the like may make you feel good but wont make any difference at all.

    • Andrew –Blaming the “others” again? We need to take some responsibility for our own actions– That is an American value, as well as a Christian value, is it not ?

  2. Dear Andrew,

    You are mistaken. Currently China and India are leading the pack when it comes to renewable energy, according to many sources that are not considered financially liberal.

    From the Financial Times:
    China and India lead the surge to solar energy.

    From Forbes, Inc.:
    China is Set to Become the World’s Renewable Energy Superpower

    and the Wall Street Journal:

    Additionally, I have personally seen the small changes that are needed to lift families out of poverty. In Zambia, I saw how small solar battery chargers make it possible for students to study at night. Previously, they relied on batteries that need replacing and were expensive for families to purchase.

    • jb thanks for pointing out some truth.. we need to counter the falsehoods perpetrated by those who choose to remain willfully ignorant of the facts..

  3. jb norton, they may be increasing their renewable sources but they are increasing their CO2 emissions. Stick to the subject. It is about emissions not solar. Look up who pollutes the most. China double the US, then the US then India Russia Japan. If you think solar batteries will lift countries out of poverty you are sorely mistaken.

  4. Back to the actual subject…
    These heat pumps are really great most of the year. But unless your units are very oversized when it gets bitter cold in Jan and February the electric bill skyrockets and the house isn’t that warm… (even on the low temperature models, without the emergency heat feature)
    The complete fossil fuel free part of this initiative is a bit ridiculous. Having a propane backup to complement the heat pump is a perfect, efficient scenario, and you can size the heat pump appropriately for the home.
    So just be forewarned, it’ll work, but when you need it the most you might be literally left in the cold unless you significantly oversize.

    • I’ll confess to being nervous about providing heat through extended winter storms. I expect contractual alternatives if interior temperatures get too low. You have to admit, it’s a gutsy promise for MassCEC to make; what if it works?

  5. amdrew–blaming others does not always work–especially when you challenge someone to look something up. Here Of course China and India emit more co 2 than the u.s — they both have triple the population we do. So the real measure is per capita emissions. Americans are super polluters–
    2015 total emissions country rank Country 2015 per capita carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion (metric tons)
    1 China 6.59
    2 United States 15.53
    3 India 1.58
    4 Russia 10.19
    Wrong again—

  6. Dondondon. Oh its per capita emissions? So if a country like say Slovenia that has 2 million people emits more per capita than say China then we should haul them before some UN or IPCC agency and have them flogged. This article is about solar panels and heat pumps making a dent in worldwide emissions. More people die falling off a roof installing solar panels than do in nuclear accidents yet you wont counsel Nuclear which is really the only thing that can effectively reduce fossil fuels.

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