Solar for your:
Follow along as President Greg Garrison goes solar in this mini-blog series.
In my blog series on creating your personal power plant, we discussed how investing in solar energy can help reduce your carbon footprint, lower your energy costs, and give you control over your energy usage. Before I installed solar and backup, I had NES install air-source heat pumps (ASHPs), specifically mini-split systems. Given recent supply chain issues, I thought it wise to take the opportunity to have them installed while they were available. Mini-splits represent another fantastic way to further reduce fossil fuel usage and achieve even greater energy savings.
As I write this, we’ve just experienced a volatile month of weather, with more on the way. A Nor-easter swept through in mid-March, blanketing New England with wet, heavy snow. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power. I did a lot of shoveling last month but never lost power — and was glad to have backup. The solar panels were generally clear of snow within 36 hours, producing power again for my home. At each National Weather Service (NWS) warning or watch, my backup power was initiated by Storm Guard, the feature I described in my last post. I was all set. I am thankful for a backup system that ensures absolute resilience against these evolving weather threats.
Even though it is early April, we are anticipating temperatures to jump into the 80’s in the coming days. Throughout this year’s wild temperature and weather swings, the one constant has been the mini-splits I installed last October that have kept my home comfortable in all weather. As I look ahead to summer, I am reminded of how well my mini-splits will keep my house cool and dry. My primary reason for installing mini-splits was to stabilize my long-term energy costs. Adding mini-splits to my solar power plant allows me to heat and cool my house at no cost. My solar power plant will produce more energy than the mini-splits will consume, which eliminates the impact of fluctuating heating bills on my budget.
As it does with solar installation, Northeast Solar takes clients through the entire process of mini-split installation. Our lead ASHP technician, Fana, works closely with clients to first design a mini-split system that works seamlessly within the client’s home and habit energies — and then install the system taking the same care to create convenience and comfort. He designed my system to be simple, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. Each unit’s location was carefully thought out to reduce the line-set runs and avoid multiple bends. He centered each condensing unit aesthetically inside each room so they look good and efficiently condition the room. The total installation time was about 12 hours spread out over two days.
Fana’s design included two Fujitsu mini-splits, (NES installs Fujitsu and Mitsubishi ASHPs) — one 12,000 BTU single-head unit upstairs in the master bedroom, and one 15,000 BTU single-head system on the first floor. Upstairs there are four rooms and one full bath. The downstairs is an open floor plan with a living area, dining area, kitchen, and half bath. The two units have made the entire home comfortable even when the outdoor temperature bottomed out at -13 degrees in early February. The one concession is that all the room doors should be left open so the heat can flow into each room. In my situation, that is not an issue for me, but for families with privacy-conscious tweens or teens, you might want to incorporate those considerations into the design, and provide them with their own condensing unit. The system I installed is considered a partial home system by MassSave. It is not designed to provide whole home heating and cooling — even though it does. A partial home system is eligible for a MassSave rebate of $1,250 per “ton.” A ton is 12,000 BTU. My system is 2.25 tons.
As a partial home system, I still have a fuel oiler boiler as backup. For whole-home ASHP systems, MassSave offers a $10,000 rebate. To qualify for a whole-home system rebate, the primary heating system might need to be disconnected, or the homeowner might need to attest to not use it except in emergencies. There are also other conditions that must be met for the whole-home rebate, which are outlined on the MassSave website. Feel free, too, to call our offices and speak to Fana.
As I mentioned, I didn’t use the boiler to heat my home this winter, but I did use it to heat water. During a typical winter heating season (October – April), my home would use approximately 600 gallons of fuel oil. This heating season, I have only used 100 gallons — an 80% savings! This was the energy stabilization I was looking for. For example, a year ago, before I had mini-splits installed, from October 2021 through March 2022, I consumed 5.4 MW of electricity and used 630 gallons of fuel oil to power and heat my home, respectively. Combined, that was $3,528 of energy expense. A year later, after installing mini-splits, from October 2022 – March 2023, I used 2.5 MW of electricity and 100 gallons of fuel oil for a combined expense of $1,180. This translates into a 66% savings, or $2,348. Add these savings to the $2,812.50 MassSave rebate and $2,000 ASHP federal tax credit, and my ASHP system will be paid back in less than four years. After that, the system will be putting money back into my savings account.
Back in 2019, Northeast Solar expanded its products to include ASHP installation at the request of the MassSave program. Having solar and ASHP installed on homes within the Commonwealth is central to the mission of MassSave. Northeast Solar is a company that can provide that synergy. Our first installation was at the home of Liz Gardner of FlipSwitch Coaching, in late 2019. She is a personal friend, an NES planning consultant, and the editor of these blog posts. Liz helped launch our ASHP business. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank her.
Liz’s decision to install mini-splits centered on several things, most particularly her desire to maximize her existing solar array and create greater energy independence — but also to be able to meet the escalating weather extremes with more reliable, sustainable options. She had an older propane heating system (forced hot water, baseboard) and a refurbished wood stove that when used together, heated the house well. However, they did nothing to help cool or dehumidify the house in the summer, which was becoming, with each and every summer, more of a priority. Because her house is situated in a hollow along the edge of wetlands, the house tends to hold onto the weather longer, particularly when it’s damp. Humidity levels were starting to create issues inside the home. With heat and humidity on the rise in the summer months, because Liz and her kids have allergies, keeping windows open at night is not an option. All of these things were considered when NES assessed her house for a mini-split design. Additional factors included the open plan of the house — and the fact that Liz works from home and is an empty nester. With a living room that rises to the roofline, and two sons home only sporadically, NES recommended — and ultimately installed — four units tied to one compressor, including one in the living room and back office space on the first floor, and two more upstairs, in the master bedroom and one of the larger guest rooms. Since their installation almost four years ago, mini-splits have enabled her to keep her house comfortable all year long, most particularly in the summer months, when Liz typically sets the controls to “Dry” and is able to enjoy a constant 70 degrees inside. She reports that since getting mini-splits, her allergies are much better, her sleep much improved, and day to day life at home all the more content. She can’t imagine life without them! She’s also had NES install a generator for back up; her powerplant is coming along nicely.
Since that first installation four years ago, our ASHP business has rapidly expanded. As I write this blog, our 2023 installation calendar is filling up. We primarily offer this service to current Northeast Solar clients, as adding a mini-split system perfectly complements their existing solar installation. By combining these two technologies, our clients can achieve remarkable energy savings and further reduce their environmental impact.
Integrating mini-split systems within my solar power plant has helped me achieve exceptional energy savings while further reducing my carbon footprint. We can do this for our clients, too. With the expert guidance of our ASHP senior technician, Fana, and the available rebates and incentives for Massachusetts residents, there's never been a better time to consider adding mini-splits to your home's heating/cooling system and solar power plant.
If you're a current Northeast Solar client and interested in learning more about how mini-splits can benefit your home, don’t hesitate to reach out.
At Northeast Solar, we’re focused on delivering a customized consultation for each customer.
Give us a call at 413.247.6045 or fill out the form below, and we’ll help answer any questions you might have about the process and whether solar is right for you and your home energy needs. Our five simple steps to solar keeps you informed and engaged in the process while focusing on what matters most to you. We look forward to helping you consider solar for your home!