It is no secret that replacing a home’s heating system is a time-consuming and daunting process for homeowners with no prior knowledge of the space heating market. As it turns out, it can be an equally challenging experience for homeowners with a background in residential heating. This issue’s spotlight follows Ellen, who volunteers as a heat pump program coordinator for the Town of Wellesley, and her journey to electrify her home. 

Ellen’s process began when her old and leaky central AC system began to approach the end of its useful life. She considered heat pumps as a solution to not only replace her AC, but simultaneously move away from gas heating and reduce the carbon footprint of her home. Ellen had a heat pump installed about 25 years ago but ended up having it removed due to performance issues—a testament to the inefficient systems of the time. Despite some lingering concerns from her prior experience, Ellen pushed forward and reached out to contractors regarding a heat pump solution with her natural gas system to be used as a backup. However, the proposals she received were rather complex and not to her satisfaction. After speaking with Abode and other experts in the field, Ellen realized that to keep her gas system as a backup would limit her to using equipment from the same manufacturer as the air handler, which would create issues down the line when the time came to replace the existing gas backup. Instead, Ellen opted to install a partial heat pump solution for the living room and kitchen with no backup, whereas the upper zone of her home would still be heated by gas. 

When asked about her feedback on the installation process, Ellen mentioned that working with contractors who are well educated on heat pump systems is one of the most essential factors. She also echoed the sentiment that contractors should be motivated to prioritize heat pump solutions and hopes that proposed Mass Save incentive levels can help bring those changes about. Ellen also strongly believes that one-on-one coaching should be an essential step of the heat pump installation process so that homeowners are able to ask detailed questions and receive personalized advice related to their home. Customer confidence will be essential in getting a critical mass of people to switch to heat pumps, at which point market awareness and momentum will drive continued electrification. 

Ellen hopes that her story provides social proof of the benefits of heat pumps and can inspire other homeowners to make the switch. Having used her heat pump system continuously since the recent install, Ellen is already thinking about the best way to replace her gas system and completely electrify her home’s heating.