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In this podcast, John Maher talks with Joseph Wood, President of New England Ductless, about ductless rebates. Wood talks about the different rebates that are currently available to help homeowners invest in ductless heating and cooling. Then, he explains how New England Ductless helps homeowners apply for rebates.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Joseph Wood, President of New England Ductless, specializing in residential and commercial ductless heat pumps and air conditioning in Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about ductless rebates. Welcome, Joe.

Joseph Wood: John, thank you for having me.

Current Rebates for Ductless or Air Source Heat Pumps in Massachusetts

John: Sure. Joe, what are some of the rebates that are available now for ductless systems or air source heat pump systems in Massachusetts?

Joseph: They’re pretty incredible. The Mass Save program that doles out all of the energy efficiency rebates has increased pretty significantly on the calendar year, and you can receive up to $10,000 per home. That’s if you’re doing a whole home application. You can receive $1,250 per ton, which we can talk about a bit more, but that’s a unit of measurement for sizing, and that can also reach up to 10 grand a home. The rebates are pretty high.

How to Qualify for Ductless Rebates

John: Okay. What does a homeowner have to do to qualify for those rebates?

Joseph: The first thing that a homeowner has to do is have an energy audit. They commonly call it an HEA or a home energy audit. That audit basically is to check the envelope of the home and make sure that whatever efficiency upgrades we put in aren’t going to leak right out the walls. They check your insulation, they check your lighting, and so forth, and make sure that the general envelope is tight, and they offer upgrades, which are significantly reduced by I think 75% to 90% reduced off regular prices to insulate attics and things like that. They have to have one of these energy audits done.

If weatherization measures are suggested, for example, that attic that has no insulation, you have to proceed forth with them. Other than that, there’s a small bit of paperwork, get your electric bills and account information, and we kind of take care of the rest.

Does New England Ductless Handle the Rebate Paperwork for Customers?

John: Okay. Talk a little bit more about that. Does a homeowner have to do all that paperwork themselves? Is that complicated? Do you handle that for them?

Joseph: I think there are companies that maybe have homeowners do it, but we don’t. We try to make that an in-house thing because it’s cumbersome. It’s something that if you don’t do it all the time, it’s not like the mail in $50 thing for your refrigerator. It’s an application that requires pretty detailed information from your energy audit, from your electrical account, and then also from the installation.

There’s a documentation called a HRI certificate. It’s a rating certificate issued for a piece of equipment. Say there’s an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. It gets one of those. You have to give all of that when you go ahead and submit your rebate. It’s been our process for years that we take care of it for the client.

Rebates for Whole Home Ductless Systems

John: You mentioned that there’s both the whole home rebate and then the partial home. Go into a little bit more detail there and explain what does that mean for the homeowner if they’re opting for a whole home ductless installation?

Joseph: Ductless systems arrived in the US as a solution only really for like a bonus room or some attic or some place you couldn’t air condition. Very rapidly the industry has changed, and so has the stance upon the equipment by the utility companies because the systems are so energy efficient.

The products that are out there now can completely replace your heating system, whether you’re using old cast iron radiators or hot water baseboard, or even duct work at present. There are… We commonly say the word ductless, but that’s a misnomer because there are ducted products out there too. There are systems in the air source heat pump realm that can take care of any home out there.

We go to a client’s home and look at their situation. It might be the case that what they’re asking for and what they need really only dictates maybe a zone here and a zone there. And then there are other times where we arrive and maybe the equipment has aged out that they already have and they wind up taking a system out entirely and conditioning the entire home. That could be through ducted product or ductless or some mix of the two, but that’s what that’s referring to.

How New Ductless Heat Pumps Work in Cold Climates

John: Okay. You’re New England Ductless. We live here in Massachusetts. It gets fairly cold in the winter. Talk a little bit about these new ductless heat pump systems and how they can handle those cold temperatures in the winter.

Joseph: Yeah, it’s a common question. A good one, John. Many homeowners have old heat pumps on the mind if they know them at all and old heat pumps effectively stopped working at 35 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a large part of our season. What happened was with those clients that had an old heat pump is they engaged electric heat, which was kind of like running a toaster or something. It was extremely costly and very energy inefficient.

These new products are a different thing all together. They’re running at very high efficiencies all the way down to five degrees Fahrenheit and still running at good efficiencies down to the negative temperatures. I think there’s a new product on the market operating down to negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

John: Wow!

Joseph: Clients I think get caught up in those numbers. While I was talking about 35 degrees being an important number, five degrees is kind of another important number because it’s not a number we hit in the Greater Boston area very commonly. We encounter clients who think that, but what they’re usually thinking about is they watch the weather and they see a wind chill, but that’s a human sensation of moisture coming off your skin that makes you feel colder than it actually is due to wind. These are machines. They don’t feel that. They’re not susceptible. When they say it’s down to this temperature, down to that temperature, they’re great.

Proof in the pudding is they are the primary heating sources for my kids’ bedrooms. We have an in-law apartment that my mother lives in and primary source, air source heat pump the whole way. They work great.

John: Right. Right. Like you said, here in Boston, we don’t really get that many days where it’s even down into the single digits.

Joseph: That’s correct.

John: If it does hit those temps, it’s just maybe overnight for a few hours, and then it warms back up again as soon as the sun comes out in the morning. I think if you added up the number of days that it hit the single digits even and below zero is almost unheard of.

Joseph: I think I looked up the last time that we got down to negative five, which is one of the benchmarks, and it was something like 13 years ago. Again, you’re correct. It’s like a couple hours while we all slept. I have family up in rural New Hampshire along the Kancamagus Highway.

They get actual, real cold temperatures, and they’ve been using these systems for… We did them for them five years ago maybe. They couldn’t be happier. I mean, they’re the canary in the coal mine.

Do You Have to Remove Your Old Furnace to Get a Whole Home Ductless Rebate?

John: Now, with that whole home rebate, are you required to actually remove your old heating system from the home when you install the ductless system?

Joseph: No, you’re not. The goal I think is long-term that you might remove it, but I think they realize there’s a bit of skepticism on the client’s part for things they’ve never owned before. These are kind of new technologies to a lot of people. There’s an affidavit you sign that basically says you will only use it in the event of an emergency, but there’s no emergency heat police walking around trying to find the attorney on your furnace.

But the goal of the utility and the goal of our business is that you come to rely upon these systems because they do not emit any emissions whatsoever. As our grid cleans up, this is going to become a more and more logical choice for heating and cooling homes really across the world.

How Does the Partial Home Ductless Rebate Work?

John: Right. And then for the partial home rebate, you mentioned you got a certain amount for each tonnage of air conditioning and heating that you put into the house. Explain that a little bit more.

Joseph: Yeah. A ton is the unit of measurement and it comes from a ton of ice. A block of ice back in the day was the original form of air conditioning. It was packed in sawdust and put into movie theaters. They’d blow air across it. A ton was 12,000 BTU. They measure air conditioning and tonnage.

To give an example, like a classic small bedroom window unit would be about a half a ton. A really large home might be five tons just to kind of give a realm there. If you came in and had, and I’m making this up on the fly, but you’ve got a 1,500 square foot place and you did maybe a master and a common living, dining, kitchen area, you might put in maybe a 6K in the master, like a half a ton, and then maybe a one ton in the other space.

That 18,000 BTUs or one and a half tons, and the rebate would be times by $1,250, so around $1,900 in rebate for a client like that. It’s really attractive because if you think of someone that isn’t currently using anything like this, they’re getting a system at $2,000 off. It’s nice.

Do You Recoup the Cost of Installing Ductless Through Energy Savings?

John: Right, absolutely. What can a homeowner expect in terms of maybe recouping the cost of installing a ductless system installation over time?

Joseph: It’s a question we get often and we have a calculator that helps the client input what it is they may have been paying for propane or oil or natural gas. Hopefully not electric. But hands down, air source heat pumps are a clear winner against your oils, your propanes, your electrics all day and every day and even a lot of natural gas.

There are some applications where if you’re using a newer product that’s multi-stage and it’s a condensing gas appliance that seasonally they might be close to one another, but the natural gas might edge it out it sometimes. I think those are some applications where the client probably isn’t calling us because they want to get more efficient.

That client’s probably calling us because they don’t want the emissions, which makes great sense. In almost all facets, they’re more efficient than fossil fuel type products. There are some places where they won’t win out, but there’s a calculator we can provide clients to really dig into that deeper if they want.

Ductless Reduces Carbon Emissions

John: Right. And then, like you said, in that case, maybe you’re not going for the efficiency or the cost savings as much as, “Hey, I want to reduce my carbon emissions,” and that’s important to you.

Joseph: Yeah. I mean, some of those things… We encounter a lot of homes where there’s just massive furnaces in a single zone, and the reality of it is that the homeowner uses a couple of areas and they can’t shut off the rest of the home. Mitsubishi had a really clever commercial where they show someone turning on one faucet and they all turn on.

And that’s kind of how a lot of heating systems work or cooling systems. Especially you get that person who’s up by I said five tons, like someone’s got a really big home and they have to turn the whole thing on just to cool off their master bedroom. That might be an application where it has nothing to do with the recouping of costs. It just makes logical sense to use a smaller system like this.

John: Right. Or imagine if you walked into your house and you turned on the lights and every light in the house came on all at once.

Joseph: Exactly.

John: And then they stayed on every minute you were at home. You leave and then all the lights go all out.

Joseph: Yep.

John: Not the most efficient way of living for sure.

Joseph: These systems, they work… To even piggyback further on that analogy, they work like a dimmer switch. If you just need a moderate amount of light or heating or cooling in this example, that’s all they do. It would be like that lighting example that every light turned on full blast, like operating room level. That’s how most furnaces are out there.

There are some that are smarter, but a lot of old gas technology, even the new stuff being sold, it’s just on or off and has nothing in between. Though it was designed for the hottest day of the year and the coldest day of the year, 0it doesn’t have any intermediate speeds. That’s where ductless really prevails because it can modulate itself.

Ductless AC Versus Window AC

John: The other thing I think too that people should consider is if they don’t have a central air conditioning system in their house and maybe they’re still using like window air conditioners, it almost doesn’t even matter whether or not you’re getting that much more efficiency with the heating. You’re going to save so much over those like old window air conditioners, right?

Joseph: It’s something that they say that the New England market, the Boston market does not have… the utilities that is, say, “We do not have enough cooling hours,” like ours where cooling is required to really be what they call a cooling market. We’re really more of a heating market, even though people would dispute that.

I mean, I think if you go around, everyone’s got their windows up and the air on. I think the tail of the tape says something otherwise, but the rebates that they put out there are actually all heating based because the utilities are keen to reduce heating output because it comprises so much of the season. But I think they make great sense for the window units as well, because they’re not loud.

They filter air much better. They don’t obstruct a window or have any break in components. You always think about that with a window unit hanging out. Someone can just push that right into a home. Ductless doesn’t have any of that sort of stuff, so it’s a much better product for that person as well.

Will the Ductless Rebates Continue Into Next Year?

John: In terms of this continuing, do you see these massive rebates continuing next year?

Joseph: Yeah, I do. I mean, I think that the article that the Globe published a while back talked about how we need to move to 10,000 homes per year moving over to technology like this. I think the year that was written, there were only 461 homes moved.

This is no longer the opinion of myself or a manufacturer. It’s a state law that we have to meet these efficiency requirements. I think the only way to do so is to fund these programs. That’s why these rebates went up to 10 grand this year versus I don’t think you would’ve gotten past maybe $4,500 was the max you could get last calendar year. They’re definitely putting their money where their mouth is.

It just doesn’t make sense that the Earth’s population can continue to grow and continue to burn more fuel. It’s not a good recipe. I think this is one of the… It’s not the first, but it’s one of the more important shots that they’ve fired to really tackle this issue. Yeah, I expect it to stay or increase.

Contact New England Ductless to Learn More

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Joe. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Joseph: John, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

John: And for more information, you can visit the website at newenglandductless.com or call 781-995-2665.