The Clean Water Blog

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The climate friendly solution to hot summer days in Boston

Massachusetts residents struggled with extreme heat earlier this month during a week-long heatwave that drove temperatures up to 98 degrees. In Dorchester, where Betsy Drinan lives, days can get up to 15 degrees hotter compared to nearby rural areas. 

For 20 years, Betsy has lived on the third floor of a triple-decker, struggling with the heat at home. She said it was the extreme temperatures in the summer that drove her to switch to heat pumps this spring.  

Before making the switch, Betsy cooled her home with A/C units that didn’t work too well. She decided it was time to invest in an upgraded energy system and began a months-long process of finding the right contractor and the right appliance for the energy project. She installed a heat pump through the Mass Save program, which offered her competitive rebates that buffered the expense of purchasing three mini splits and a heat pump for her three-bedroom apartment.  

She decided to work with a trusted local contractor who had previously done work in her unit and who also offered her the most affordable quote. “I got multiple quotes ranging from $13,000 to 32,000; it took many months to find the right contractor who would take the time to explain everything to me instead of pressuring me like others,” Betsy mentioned that despite a lag in timing, when the contractors installed the mini splits in her home, they were very neat, easy to work with, and helped her process all the paperwork so she could access the Mass Save rebates.

She spent around $10,000 on this project and is happy about her decision. She’s been a customer of Mass Save for many years; she replaced all of the windows and insulated every floor of her triple-decker through the program. Betsy has tenants living on the first and second floors of her building; she deeply cares about them and is looking to install mini splits in those units in the future. “It’s a matter of money; I am not sure if I need a separate heat pump for each unit. I still have to figure out how to make it work for the entire building.”

A few weeks ago, the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC) released the Strategic Renter’s Plan Draft, which outlines a series of strategies the Mass Save Program Administrators will implement over the next two years to increase access to energy efficiency benefits for renters and landlords. Like Betsy, many people in Massachusetts could benefit from upgrading their energy system. However, not everyone can afford to make the switch. Renters, who often deal with high energy burdens, deserve access to up-to-date heating and cooling systems, and landlords need better incentives to invest in healthy homes for their tenants.

Betsy also participates in Boston’s Community Choice Energy program and is proud to live in a fossil fuel-free unit now powered by heat pumps. If you want to learn more about energy efficiency and weatherization, join us at our upcoming community workshop in partnership with the Boston Green New Deal Coalition; register here.