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.