As the climate crisis continues to worsen, many homeowners are looking to decarbonize their homes in order to reduce their personal carbon footprint. However, it is easy to be intimidated by the complexity and enormity of this undertaking, especially given the financial investment required. In these cases, it is helpful for residents to hear from some of the early actors, such as Karen & Gary from the Town of Acton, who began the process of decarbonizing their home in the early 2000’s and recently completed the final step in their journey.
Karen & Gary’s desire to start decarbonizing their home was driven primarily by a sense of duty to the environment. With Karen working in the sustainability field, this project was consistent with personal values and allowed them to double down on their eco-friendly lifestyle. Their journey began with participation in the Mass Save program. They started off by insulating their entire home in stages and implementing energy saving measures such as LED lighting and low-flow plumbing to conserve water. In 2013, they decided to take advantage of the first SREC Solar Program and installed a solar PV system on the back roof of their house. In 2021 they expanded their solar PV system by adding more panels on the front of their home in preparation for electrifying their home. Later that year, Karen & Gary decided to electrify their heating by opting for a whole-home heat pump solution to replace their aging oil-fired boiler. They installed 6 mini-splits (2 outdoor condensers/zones) throughout their entire house, with the goal of displacing oil heating and replacing inefficient and inconvenient window-AC units. Because their domestic water heating was also fueled by oil, Karen & Gary took advantage of the Federal Investment Tax Credit to install a solar water heater.
When asked about the barriers to electrifying their home, Karen mentioned that the biggest barriers are likely the upfront cost as well as the time and energy required to research and implement a new heating/cooling system. While the status-quo alternatives might seem like an easier option, it is important to consider decarbonization alternatives for heating and cooling to be “green sustainable investments with a guaranteed pay back period.” Lastly, Karen shared some tips for homeowners looking to decarbonize their homes:
- Pairing heat pump systems with solar panels will help offset the additional power required to operate the heat pump system and will reflect on the electricity bill.
- Use an experienced HVAC vendor who focuses on heat pumps.
- Decarbonizing a home is both an art and a science. Work with a contractor that is willing to work with you to realize your goals.
- Take advantage of other local clean energy resources and programs to help in your home decarbonization journey.
Karen and Gary’s decarbonization journey serves as a template for other homeowners looking to undertake a similar project and provides insight into the different paths people take to reach the same end goal of reducing one’s climate impacts.