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Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about HeatSmart Northampton

    

 

About HeatSmart Northampton

About Heat Pumps

About Financing and Savings

About Qualifying Equipment


About HeatSmart Northampton

What is HeatSmart Northampton and who is organizing it?

HeatSmart Northampton is a program supported by the City of Northampton that seeks to help Northampton residents and businesses “heat smarter.” That means replacing old fossil fuel-based boilers and furnaces with high-efficiency air source heat pumps that can not only save you money, but also improve the comfort of your home year round while reducing your carbon footprint.

Think about it like Solarize Northampton from 2013—except for your home heating instead of for solar photovoltaics!

HeatSmart Northampton is the latest in the City of Northampton’s programs for helping the city to meet its long term carbon emissions goals while supporting Northampton residents and businesses to save money on their energy bills.

HeatSmart Northampton is coordinated by the City’s Energy and Sustainability Department. Outreach is driven by a network of local volunteer organizations including Climate Action Now and Mothers Out Front.

How does HeatSmart Northampton work?

HeatSmart Northampton is a simple way for homeowners to purchase air source heat pumps (ASHPs) at a discounted price from a qualified local installer. The process is straightforward and follows these basic steps:

  1. Sign up for the program by January 31, 2018. You can sign up online here or sign up in person at any of the many community events that will be held around Northampton!
  2. Our installer, Express Plumbing, Heating & Solar will give you a call within five business days to you some additional questions and schedule a site visit at your convenience. If you have any other questions about the program, you can also get in touch by emailing heatsmartnorthampton@gmail.com.
  3. Express will visit your home, determine whether a heat pump is right for your building, and discuss your options. After completing their visit and working with you to identify the best option for your home, they’ll present you with a quote within a few days. If you're ready to proceed, you can schedule your installation right away.
  4. Express will complete your installation and you'll be ready to Heat (and cool) Smarter!

It's really that simple.

How does HeatSmart Northampton offer a discounted price?

Express and their supplier are offering discounted bulk pricing for the higher volume of heat pumps that will be installed through the HeatSmart Northampton program. The HeatSmart Northampton program’s outreach and volunteer team will spread awareness and help Express acquire leads to drive installations. The City of Northampton has worked with Express to ensure that these savings are passed onto the customers.

Based on market data provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, we expect that customers may see a 10% discount or more from the Hampshire County average!

How were the installers selected?

The City of Northampton issued a competitive request for qualifications in June. Express was selected based on several factors, including their experience with working with Northampton homes and businesses, equipment installation expertise, customer service, strong customer referrals and pricing proposal.

Why should I participate now?

HeatSmart Northampton and the discounted pricing offered is a limted time offer. Only customers who sign contracts with Express by January 31, 2018 will receive this discount.

There are a variety of incentives and low-cost financing options available for heat pumps today that may not be available forever.

If you're looking to convert from oil, propane, or electric resistance heating to gas but can't due to the moratorium, heat pumps offer a cleaner, lower carbon alternative today that also provides you with air conditioning.

Plus, if you install a heat pump now, you'll be able to Heat Smarter this winter AND be ready with air conditioning for next summer!.

 

Is participation in this program limited to Northampton residents?

Yes, HeatSmart Northampton is limited to residents and businesses of Northampton and its villages Florence and Leeds.

What is ener-G-save and how does it work with HeatSmart Northampton?

Ener-G-save is a pilot program of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation that is helping homeowners take steps to weatherize their homes by providing them with thermal (IR) images of their homes that show where heat is leaking out and assist homeowners with finding contractors that can correct the problems. The city of Northampton is helping to highlight this effort, along with promoting HeatSmart Northampton, although the two programs are run by separate organizations. Ener-G-save is using this opportunity to educate and inspire Pioneer Valley home owners to reduce energy use, which is highly complementary with HeatSmart Northampton.

HeatSmart Northampton provides you with the means to replace all or parts of your heating system, but ener-G-save will help you find ways to reduce the amount of heating (and cooling) you’ll need through improved insulation, air sealing, and other efficiency measures.

Learn more about ener-G-save here.

About Heat Pumps

What is an air source heat pump and how does it work?

Air source heat pumps (ASHP) are appliances that provide heating and cooling by moving heat into a building (for heating) or out of a building (for cooling). Heat pumps do not create heat, they just move heat from one place to another.

They accomplish this by using a refrigerant that absorbs heat from colder air in order to move that heat into a space with warmer air – much the same way that a refrigerator or air conditioner works except that it can move heat in both directions. A cold climate air source heat pump can do this even when the winter air is well below freezing: today’s cold climate air source heat pumps can extract heat from the air all the way down to -13°F. In the summer, the process is reversed and heat is absorbed from the cooler indoor air and moved to the warmer outdoor air.

Since it takes far less energy to move heat than it does to create heat, heat pumps are one of the most efficient home heating systems available. There are two primary types of air source heat pumps:

Ductless air source heat pumpsare exactly as they sound: heat pumps that don't require that you have ductwork in your home. Each ductless includes one outdoor unit connected to one or more indoor units with small copper lines

Ductless air source heat pumps are the most efficient air-source systems and are often installed in homes and offices to supplement existing systems, usually in the most frequently used rooms like family rooms or bedrooms or hallways that can reach multiple rooms.

These systems often come with remote controls that allow you to use them for heating, cooling, dehumidification or as a ceiling fan. Because each indoor unit can be controlled individually, you can reduce your energy use even more by lowering the temperature in rooms that are not being used.

Check out Efficiency Maine's "Introduction to Heat Pumps" video below:

Ducted air source heat pumps have an outdoor unit that is connected to a building's ductwork, much the same way that a furnace or central air conditioner is connected to a building's ductwork. With an air source heat pump, the system is not creating heat, but rather moving it from the outdoor air inside so that the air handler in your ductwork can circulate it throughout the building.

All air source heat pumps include an outdoor unit that will look similar to the unit below:.

Ductless air source heat pumps, sometimes referred to as mini-splits, will have one or more indoor units that mount on your wall. The image below shows a typical air source heat pump indoor unit mounted on a wall:

For homeowners that might not have suitable wall space or don’t like the aesthetic look of the wall-mounted indoor unit, floor-mounted and ceiling-mounted units are also available, though these units cost more to install. Photo courtesy of E. Armstrong

If you have a furnace (and ductwork), ducted air source heat pumps can connect directly to a building’s ductwork so there are no indoor wall units to be seen.

What are the benefits of using an air source heat pump?

There are many reasons why an air source heat pump could be a good fit for your home.

  • Energy savings.If you heat with oil, propane, or electric resistance heat, you could save hundreds of dollars a year on your heating bill by installing an air source heat pump.
  • High-efficiency cooling. Air source heat pumps also provide air conditioning or dehumidification and are more efficient than window units and most central air conditioning systems.
  • Improved home comfort. In addition to providing cooling, heat pumps filter and dehumidify air, which can improve the air quality and comfort of your home.
  • Increased resiliency. Efficiently cooling even one room in a home may be a life-saver for people vulnerable to excessively high temperatures during heat waves due to a warming climate.
  • Flexible options. Heat pumps are a flexible technology that can be installed in homes of all shapes and sizes with different needs—whether you need a whole-home system replacement, you wish to increase the efficiency of heating one part of your home or you wish to add extra heating for part of your home that’s never warm enough.
  • Lower your carbon footprint. As a clean heating and cooling technology, converting from burning fossil fuels to using an air source heat pump will help reduce your carbon footprint and dependence on imported fossil fuels.

For homeowners interested in converting from oil, propane, or electric resistance heating to gas (but can’t due to the natural gas moratorium), an air source heat pump provides a clean, lower-carbon alternative that will be as low-cost to run as a gas system while also providing cooling for the hottest days of the year and an ability to be powered partially or wholly by renewable energy. Consider cold climate air source heat pumps to be the cleaner alternative to natural gas!

Why are air source heat pumps referred to as a “clean” or “renewable” heating and cooling system?

Air source heat pumps are sometimes said to be “renewable” or “clean” heating and cooling systems because they do not create heat, but rather they move heat – a renewable resource found throughout the environment – from one place to another. This process is powered by electricity, which can also be sourced from renewable sources like solar, wind, or hydro.

About 12% of Massachusetts’ electricity sold by utilities is currently generated by renewable electricity (by law this has to increase 1% every year) and air source heat pumps generate fewer emissions per unit of heat than traditional home heating systems.

If you have solar on your roof or purchase green power through programs like Northampton’s GreenUp program, the energy you’ll be using to heat and cool your home will be virtually carbon-free!

How do the annual maintenance costs of an air source heat pump compare to other heating systems?

Annual system maintenance, which consists of cleaning air filters and an annual maintenance checkup for the outside unit, costs about the same as annual servicing charges for a boiler or furnace.

How long do heat pumps last?

Heat pumps have an expected lifetime of about 15 years—similar to the average furnace.

How noisy are heat pumps?

An air source heat pump indoor unit is quieter when running than a refrigerator and much quieter than a typical window AC unit.

How complicated is installing a heat pump and how much time will it take?

A ductless air source heat pump can typically be installed in less than a day. It entails mounting indoor units on brackets attached to inside walls, running copper lines through a 3-inch hole in an outside wall to the outside unit and mounting the outside unit on a stand or on a bracket attached to the outside wall. When a Express conducts a free site visit of your home, they will also assess whether there are any issues in your home that could cause an installation to take more than a day.

How can I maximize energy savings from my heat pump?

Heat pumps can provide significant energy savings for homeowners heating with electric resistance, propane, or oil. Using your heat pump properly and keeping it well-maintained will help keep your system efficient and your home comfortable.

Check out this guide from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Mass Save on some of the heat pump tips and tricks they've observed over supporting the installation of thousands of systems. Also, when you get your system installed by Express, they will give you a tutorial on how best to use your new heat pump system and can answer any other questions you might have.

How well do heat pumps work in the middle of winter?

Quite well! The newer cold climate heat pumps installed through HeatSmart Northampton and supported by state rebates are designed to be used in a New England winter, providing efficient heating all the way down to 5°F while still continuing to provide useful heat all the way down to -10°F or lower.

On some of the colder days, your ASHP might not put out as much heat and you may need to use some backup heat to help keep warm. As such, the installer will keep your existing heating system in place (or install a backup) for the coldest days of the year.

Nervous about ASHPs shutting down in February? Don't be: Mainers and Vermonters have installed the most cold-climate heat pumps out of any New England state in the past few years—over 30,000 since 2013, and both states are significantly colder than Massachusetts in the winter!

Rest assured that our installer will ensure that your ASHP and backup heating system are configured to ensure that you aren't left shivering mid-winter!

Are there other drawbacks to heat pumps?

A whole-home ASHP system will cost more than a typical furnace or boiler – closer to the cost of a furnace or boiler in addition to a central air conditioning system. However, if you heat with oil, propane, or electric resistance, you can expect the added cost of the system to pay back from energy savings over the course of several years.

Learn more about the rebates and 0% interest HEAT Loan available to help offset the added costs below.

Why is the City promoting heat pumps?

The City of Northampton is one of the leading cities in the Northeast in the fight against climate change. One-third or more of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change from within the city comes from heating and cooling. To meet our goals of reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, we’ll need to find ways to “decarbonize” our heat (as well as our electricity supply and transportation). While fuels like natural gas are “cleaner” than oil and propane, natural gas alone won’t get us all the way there.

Heat pumps offer one of the best ways to accomplish our goals: heat pumps already provide a reduction in emissions compared to natural gas today even though our state grid is still mostly powered by fossil fuels. As Massachusetts’ electricity grid becomes more and more renewable (under state law), the emissions of heat pumps will continue to decrease.

Additionally, as our planet’s temperature warms, air conditioning will be more and more in demand as summers get hotter, wetter, and longer. Heat pumps also offer one of the highest-efficiency options for cooling—on par with the highest-efficiency air conditioners on the market.

Heat pumps can help the city reach its GHG emissions reduction goals while also saving Northampton residents and businesses money on energy bills and keeping them more comfortable year-round.

About Financing and Savings

What incentives are available for heat pumps?

Rebates are available for air source heat pumps in Massachusetts from both the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Mass Save. You can receive rebates from both organizations as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center: Clean Heating and Cooling Program

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) provides rebates for ASHPs through its Clean Heating and Cooling program. All of the systems that Express will install through HeatSmart Northampton will be eligible for rebates. Residents, businesses, and non-profits in Northampton are all eligible for this rebate.

The rebate you receive will depend on the type and size of the system you install (click here for a complete explanation of the size of rebate you can expect to receive). In general, you should expect to receive a rebate equal to approximately 15% of the cost of your heat pump system. MassCEC will also increase the size of your rebate depending on your household’s income and current heating system:

  • If your household makes less than 120% of the state median income ($130,775 for a family of four), your rebate will increase by 28%.
  • If your household makes less than 80% of the state median income ($87,183 for a family of four) this rebate will increase by 60%!
  • If you are replacing an electric resistance baseboard with your heat pump, MassCEC will provide an additional rebate adder of $300-500 per system!

In order to receive a MassCEC rebate, you will need to have completed an energy audit within the past four (4) years—or complete an audit in the next 6 months (unless you live in a condo or apartment with 5 or more units). If you have not completed a home energy assessment (e.g. free assessments through Mass Save), visit the Mass Save website to learn more and schedule a no-cost home energy assessment.

If you haven’t already completed a home energy assessment, HeatSmart Northampton strongly recommends that you do so, as completing home efficiency and weatherization improvements before installing a heat pump is critical to making sure the heat pump performs well and is properly sized for your home heating needs.

For complete information on the MassCEC ASHP rebate, click here.

Mass Save®: Mini-split Heat Pump Rebate

Mass Save, Massachusetts’ utility energy efficiency program, provides rebates for ductless mini-split ASHPs. Through the Mass Save program, you can receive rebates of $100 or $300 per indoor unit depending on the efficiency of the system. Learn more about how the Mass Save rebate will apply to heat pumps that will be installed through HeatSmart Northampton here. In general, this means that single-zone units will be eligible for the $300 per indoor unit rebate while multi-zone units will only be eligible for the $100 per indoor unit rebate.

Are there programs available for financing my heat pump system?

Yes! All heat pumps installed through HeatSmart Northampton are eligible for the Mass Save® HEAT Loan, a 0% interest, 7-year loan of up to $25,000. That equates to monthly payments of about $120 for a $10,000 system!

Learn more about how to apply for heat loan program financing here.

How much could I potentially save?

Everyone’s heating (and cooling) bill is different—so the amount you could save on energy will vary depending on a number of factors, including what fuel you currently use to heat your home, how well-insulated it is, what size and shape your home is, what temperature you keep your thermostat at, how many heat pump units you install, and more.

In general, the most important factor is what fuel you currently use to heat your home and how old and inefficient your heating system is. If you heat with electric resistance or propane, you’ll probably see the most energy savings—anywhere from $500 a year to over a $1,000, depending on how much you currently pay. If you heat with oil, your savings will be a bit lower due to the historically low oil prices, but these savings will still be more than enough to cover the cost of the system over time, particularly if oil prices go back to where they were just a few years ago.

If you heat with gas, you still might see modest savings if you have an older gas boiler. For homes that heat with gas, heat pumps will be most valuable to you if you need air conditioning: a heat pump system will be more efficient than most AC systems—and it could still save you a bit on heating costs too in spring and fall when it's not too cold and your heat pump can work at its highest efficiency.

How can I make sure I understand and receive all rebates and incentives that apply to my system?

Check out this step-by-step detailed rebates guide that we've pulled together to help walk you through the process.

Moreover, Express has assisted many customers in applying for rebates and will make sure that you fully understand all applicable rebates and how to obtain them before providing you with a quote (that does not include the rebates).

In addition to explaining the details and answering questions during your site visit, the installer is also able to help you complete and submit the paperwork required to process your rebates. Ask Express whatever questions you have—or come to one of the many HeatSmart Northampton events to learn more.

About Equipment and Pricing

What types of heat pumps are being installed through this program?

Express will be installing ductless mini split heat pumps manufactured by Mitsubishi (learn more about the distinction between ductless and ducted systems here). These models are among the most advanced and efficient ASHPs optimized for cold climates and are eligible for MassCEC and Mass Save® rebates.

As every home has different heating and cooling needs, the installers will determine what specific models are best suited for your home when they conduct a site visit.

How much will these heat pumps cost?

HeatSmart Northampton has worked with Express to develop a standard base pricing sheet for each heat pump model for the average home. Larger homes and homes with less insulation will typically require larger or more heat pump units. However, each home is different, so your final quote may differ from the price described in the pricing sheet.

Before the over $900 in rebates, you can generally expect to pay $3,800 to $4,500 for a single heat pump (e.g. in your living room/kitchen, master bedroom) or $7,300 to $15,000 for systems with multiple indoor units. Completing home weatherization improvements prior to installing a heat pump can reduce the size and number of indoor units you’ll need to install (and the cost!).

See the full, detailed pricing guide here. Come to a Meet the Installer event to learn more about the pricing and what you can expect to pay.

How long will it take me to get a heat pump installed through the program?

After signing up online or at a meeting, all customers should be contacted by Express within 1 to 2 business days to ask questions and schedule a site visit. Your site visit should occur within one to two weeks depending on your availability. After a contract is signed, your installation will be completed within 3-4 weeks, depending on your availability.

The installation itself can be done in a single day with minimal disruption to your home, though your installer will let you know during the site visit whether it will need more time.