Great Barrington — Welcome to the first in a four-month series of articles about HeatSmart Great Barrington, a program designed to make it cheap and easy for Great Barrington homeowners and small businesses to install a kind of system that can lower your heating bills, provide you with cooling as well as heating and reduce your carbon footprint all at the same time. During this series, which will be written by members of the HeatSmart Great Barrington volunteer team, we’ll tell you all about different aspects of the technology and the program, including opportunities for you to learn more and save more. In this first article, I’d like to tell you about the program and invite you to our launch event Tuesday, May 8.
Officially, HeatSmart Massachusetts is a partnership between the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Department of Energy Resources, local municipal officials and community volunteers. The program encourages the adoption of small-scale clean heating and cooling projects through a group-purchasing model combined with grassroots education and outreach. In our case, MassCEC awarded the town of Great Barrington one of only four pilot grants given statewide to promote a wonderful heating and cooling technology you may not have heard of called air-source heat pumps. The Edge published a great piece explaining the program when our grant award was first announced, but I’d like to use this inaugural column to break it down in a way that focuses on the immediate value to you.
First, you can think of HeatSmart as a four-month sale on high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. With the help of MassCEC, the town and the volunteer team negotiated a group discount on this equipment. This sale, which is for Great Barrington homeowners and small businesses, is on top of significant rebates that are available to all state residents, including some extra income-based rebates that 60 percent of all state residents can qualify for. On top of all of that, people who install heat pumps may qualify for state-supported, zero-interest, seven-year loans for up to $25,000. So if you live in Great Barrington, you can get heating and cooling equipment that can lower your monthly energy bill, with all kinds of rebates and a zero-interest loan, on sale through the end of the summer. Even if you don’t think you can afford to invest in a new heating system right now, you should come and check it out. You might be surprised at how affordable it is. And since these systems are less expensive to run than oil, propane or baseboard electric heat, they will pay back your investment if you currently heat your home with any of those fuels.
And what is this heating and cooling system, exactly? Air-source heat pumps, which you may have heard of by the name “mini-splits,” work like systems you probably already have in your house—with a few high-tech twists. For starters, think of a heat pump like a reversible air conditioner. An air conditioner takes heat out of the air in your house and moves it outside. A heat pump does the same thing. It’s a very efficient air conditioner. But it also can move heat from the outside air into your house. Even when it’s cold out, there is still heat that can be removed from that air and used. The heat pumps that are on sale through the HeatSmart program can pull heat out of cold air even in zero-degree weather and pump it into your house.
Air-source heat pumps also have two technology tricks that help them to be so energy-efficient. First, they can adjust to give you only the amount of heating or cooling that you need. My oil boiler works like a light switch; it’s either on at full power or it’s off altogether. But heat pumps work more like a gas pedal or a dimmer switch, automatically giving you a little power or a lot based on what you need. The second trick they have is an outside thermostat and a small computer. When the temperature outside starts to drop, the heat pump starts to increase its output. By matching the changes in the weather, the system doesn’t have to burn a lot of fuel to “catch up” when the temperature changes inside the house. The result is a more comfortable home at a lower cost.
So, to sum up: HeatSmart Great Barrington offers a limited-time sale on equipment that can save you money on heating bills, keep your house comfortable in both winter and summer, and reduce your carbon footprint. The sale is in addition to existing generous rebates and a zero-interest loan that may enable you to get a new system with zero down payment. So while you are saving all of that money, you would also be saving the world by lowering your carbon footprint. What’s not to like?
If you’re at all interested, you should come to our launch event Tuesday, May 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 251 Main St. You can learn more about the program; meet our fantastic installer partner, Climate Heating and Cooling; and even see working heat pump demonstration units. Or you can go to http://www.heatsmartgb.org and sign up for a free assessment.