2021 Webinar Series - 9 Electrifying Buildings Part 2

It’s certainly intuitive to promote building envelope improvements prior to, or concurrent with heat pump conversions. The thinking is to lower the building’s energy requirements, install a smaller heat pump and get even lower operating costs. With limited dollars, how should we think about envelope upgrades in relation to heat pump installation.for a range of circumstances? How should NYS’s aggressive carbon reduction goals with projections of 100% clean electricity by 2040 influence our approach? Our speakers will provide perspectives on this important set of relationships.


  • Hal Smith / Halco Energy
  • Courtney Moriarta / NYSERDA
  • Kevin Moravec / VanHee Mechanical







  1. Do you have any programs or solutions for homes with vermiculite insulation?
    1. NYSERDA does not specifically have programs aimed at vermiculite insulated homes at this time. Asbestos abatement regulations are set and enforced by the NYS Department of Labor. If you'd like to follow up offline after this session, I'd be interested in hearing more about issues you are encountering.
  2. Please identify an ashp that does not require "backup heat" at -15F. There are none registered in the AHRI directory…
    1. Answered Live. There are no air source heat pumps listed by AHRI with an official rating at -15F as the current federal standards do not require standardized testing or reporting of performance at this level. NYSERDA’s analysis is based on manufacturer reported performance data. The NEEP criteria includes performance at 5F but this data is reported on a voluntary basis by the manufacturers and is not based on a federally mandated standard test method. Until such time that the federal standards catch up with the cold climate heat pump technology, we will need to continue to rely on self-reported performance data from the manufacturers to identify equipment that can produce year-round comfort in our coldest climates.
  3. Do your ccASHP simulations take into account electric backup heat needed for defrost mode that cannot be avoided nominally at outdoor temperatures below about 38 degrees?
    1. Answered live. No, what we’ve shown you here today is only preliminary analysis but defrost cycles should be included in future analysis
  4. Can I assume that what is being said for houses is also what you would be saying for apartment buildings or are there some aspects that you would do differently?
    1. Answered live. Courtney’s presentation and the analysis that was shown here today was focused on single family homes, multifamily buildings will be different
    2. Any load reduction is beneficial but multi-families tend to be cooling dominant - the use of a GSHP to produce DHW is a way to minimize loop design.  The load match concept of VC would also apply to multi-family, you can eliminate the fossil fuel first and the shell can be improved over time at less expense. 
  5. re make up clean air use an air to air heat exchanger for ventilation air.
    1. Most common way - other factors like dehumidifying ventilators 
  6. Is the NYS going to mandate all homes in the state to be inspected for leakage?
    1. Answered live. We don’t foresee that specifically being a mandate. There is a leakage standard for new homes of 3 ACH50 or less and blower door tests are required before a certificate of occupancy can be issued. We are looking at the possibility of using whole building benchmarking, rating, or scores in a future disclosure mandate for residential buildings at time of listing or time of sale, but we are just exploring options now.
  7. During the pandemic, blower door tests were not permitted. Has this process been restored for all home assessments?
    1. NYSERDA reinstated blower door testing, at the contractor's discretion, last fall along with guidance for how to perform a lower touch, safer, blower door procedure as the pandemic continued. We continue to leave it to the contractor's discretion for the time being and will make adjustments as NYS DOH guidelines evolve.
  8. Will there be NYSERDA $$ coming to support window replacement in older homes?
    1. We are currently offering incentives for packages that include window replacements in our Comfort Home PIlot.
  9. If you do the average $18K energy upgrade, at 3.49% what would be the average monthly payment for a customer?  I know there is financing but I don't have a good feel for what out of pocket expense a customer should plan on.  Thank you
    1. @ 3.49% For a 15 year loan the monthly payment is $129.66
    2. The 3.49% loan offer is for income qualified homeowners. The current rate for non-low-income homeowners is 6.99%. The monthly payment on a 15 year loan at 6.99% would be $161.69. 
  10. Any thoughts on backup power for a fully electrified home?  We lose power often in Westchester NY and Fairfield Ct.  Gas stove for example still works but these minor shutdowns can become worse when all electrified.
    1. Unless you have a generator - a gas heating appliance does not work.  Power outages affect ALL technologies equally.
  11. separate "back up" and "supplemental" please
    1. One in the same - back up or supplement or emergency heat (wood stove, electrical source, etc.)
    2. As these distinctions become more important, NYSERDA is working on establishing standard terminology. The key distinction is between a full load backup system that provides the same capacity of heating as the primary heating system vs. a supplemental system that fills the incremental gap between the primary system’s performance capability and the full load demand to maintain comfort on the coldest hours/days.
    3. I agree with b. above.  Full backup is a different thing than just auxiliary to assist while the heat pump keeps functioning as a heat pump.  The confusion is the actual hardware is often the same.  For instance an electric strip heater can be auxiliary to help a heat pump with higher output to meet the load on a cold day or as backup used to completely heat the house if it’s so cold that an ASHP has shut down it’s heat pump function.
  12. What refrigerant will be utilized once 410A is phased out by 2030?
    1. John C. - there are a few candidate refrigerants in the mix and looks like they will be a bit more flammable than R410A - which makes the next transition a bit trickier.  Two leading contenders in the “high” pressure unitary category (most residential heat pumps) are R-32 and R-454B.  NY-GEO has a session on this topic on June 15th called “Lower Global Warming Potential Refrigerants: What Should We Expect? You can register for the next 4 sessions at this link if you haven’t already; https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_DNXStq6lSn-wmjxcdUya8g 
  13. Installing a heat pump immediately eliminates most no-site CO2 emissions from a building. Envelope improvements improve efficiency or comfort. CO2 reduction is necessary to preserve our way of life, whether or not we’re comfortable. Should the government spend money on efficiency or comfort if doing so uses funds that might otherwise be used for heat pumps that eliminate CO2 emissions?
    1. Answered live. Eliminating fossil fuels may be more effective than reducing fossil fuels in reaching our climate objectives. We want to see as much transition to clean heating as quickly as possible but there are risks associated with that in the real world - if we install heat pumps in homes with inefficient envelopes, and the occupants are uncomfortable, we run a risk of people associating heat pumps with being uncomfortable, which will make it difficult for NYS to meet climate goals - customers need to be comfortable with their heat pumps. Additionally, we need to consider impacts on our electricity transmission and distribution systems. T&D is not unlimited so we need to be actively working on mitigating future peak electricity demand now, in the early stages of our electrification efforts. This is a game of finesse, not brute force, and we will need to apply all tactics in a coordinated effort to be successful.
    2. We have to be careful lumping all “heat pumps” into the same category.  A ccASHP’s capacity diminishes in direct relation to a home's increased need for heating.  A GSHP’s capacity does not change as the load increases, hence the beauty of Variable Capacity.  There is no penalty for sizing and no concern with Peak if a system is designed correctly AND cost of correct peak sizing does not significantly change for the end user.
  14. Excited to see the numbers Kevin showed.  Is that from personal sample sites or combined with other NY Geo folks, etc.?
    1. Answered live.
    2. We would be happy to provide a demonstration of various heat pump capacities vs similar loads.
  15. Any thoughts on the embedded carbon in the process of retrofitting homes with closed or open cell foam?  How should we think about the diminishment of operational carbon footprint while using a carbon based foam?
    1. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has issued regulations prohibiting use of HFC-containing foam products effective January 1, 2021. This is an important first step in improving the climate impact stemming from the manufacture and use of these products. NYS’s Clmate Action Council’s Energy Efficiency in Housing Panel recently made recommendations to the Council to pursue a more in depth review of embodied carbon in all of our energy efficiency and clean heating products and materials. We expect this to be an on-going process as the issues are more fully researched.
  16. Has your perspective changed now that carbon reductions are a primary need as opposed to just saving btus?
    1. NO, I feel that people have to be comfortable and healthy with Heat Pumps in their homes. It has to be a balance of both.
    2. YES - we need to consider carbon reduction as a priority and might shift the balance of how much enelope work is done. Insulate for comfort - address health concerns as/if needed but electrify first as the approach.  Some homes/buildings will not require any envelope work (newer) and some will definitely need some.  They all need to have combustion removed.  Let’s not assume you need to insulate first in all cases. 
    3. Absolutely -- NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund investments are fully focused on meeting our climate goals, which requires a pivot to aim for electrification in buildings as quickly as possible. This has caused us to consider envelope improvements for the benefits they bring in terms of load reduction and comfort to make homes “heat pump ready” rather than focusing solely on cost-effective improvements based on incremental energy savings.
  17. How can there be little cost difference between a 3 ton geothermal and a 5 ton geothermal when you need a much larger loop for the 5 ton?
    1. Answered live. Less than a $1000 difference. Labor to install is no different. Through the standardization of variable capacity equipment. 
    2. There is a component of this flat price to the customer that involves more incentives as the system size increases.  So a 5 ton does cost a bit more to install but the added rebate can account for that difference.
  18. Generally, how low do the number of air changes per hour need to get to for an air source heat pump to operate without electric or fossil backup at 0 degrees F?   Is ACH basically what determines the need for backup?
    1. We are still working on the analysis to answer this question. Our preliminary models are indicating air leakage as a key driver -- note the sensitivity to wind in our initial models. We will continue to expand the scope of our models and supplement with field performance data to better understand the spec's we need to drive for.
  19. I’m excited about the potential for AeroBarrier for air sealing. Is there any movement at NYSERDA to think about how to use that technology for new construction and/or retrofits for low income housing?
    1. Seems best suited for new construction but might be a way to protect a furnished, occupied house.  The AeroSeal for ductwork does seem to work quite well but also is more problematic on very leaky old ductwork.  The panelist are really experts on this technology - perhaps we can have an AeroSeal / Barrier contractor or company rep on one of our educational sessions sometime.
    2. Ian Shapiro at Taitum ran an Aero Seal business for a number of years/
  20. When will NYS implement  a carbon tax? Will you guys runs some cost scenarios at various carbon tax levels?!
    1. None of the panelists are in a position to address a carbon tax.  The DEC cost of carbon study gives us a window into the value NYS “might” put on CO2e emissions but the mechanisms are not in place yet.
  21. The experience of the home performance industry in New York has shown that comfort, building durability, and health have been larger motivators for energy efficiency upgrades than energy savings. This would tend to support the whole house approach that companies like Halco are using. It isn't just about energy savings. What is there about addressing these issues that presents a problem for Geothermal installers?
    1. Answered live. Variable capacity will modulate to reduce over time. If you’re switching from fuel oil or propane to geothermal (without weatherization) you have the savings and can later fund weatherization
  22. NEEP Directory is way out of date. The data in NEEP is just a copy of AHRI data.
    1. NEEP also lists “Manufactures” performance data for the 5F category while AHRI only lists performance at 17F. The AHRI data does not provide enough information to determine the capability of any given piece of equipment to perform in cold climates like we have in New York.  
  23. To achieve NYSERDA Geothermal installation goals, do you see a potential gap with Underground/Loop contractors? Vertical, Horizontal Directional drilling, excavation…
    1. The loop asset (battery) is the largest bottle-neck in the industry today.  We have the capacity with horizontal loops but vertical will remain a challenge in the years to come.  Directional drilling has not proved reliable or cost effective.
  24. Are there considerations for incorporating thermal storage tanks (hot water produced from the heat pump the day before) to address part of the electric backup heat challenge.  I think that can really help with the challenge.
    1. There are lots of dialogs going on about thermal storage - as you probably know.  Jens Ponikau has written a considerable amount on the geothermal closed ground loop as a “storage” device that can reduce peak electrical loads - especially winter peak.  There will be discussion of thermal storage in water tanks for domestic hot water applications in our CO2 Refrigerant Heat Pump session on June 22nd that I think you will appreciate.  
  25. Please explain why a loop for 5-ton isn’t much more expensive than a loop for 3-ton. Is it because much of the cost of drilling comes from the mobilization, demobilization, travel time, equipment depreciation, etc. and the additional drilling time is not a significant part of the overall drilling cost?
    1. Methods of loop installation have changed significantly over the last 10 years.  Speaking from the Ground Up perspective, we standardize our loops and there is such a minor difference between a 4 to 5 or 4 down to a 3.  The “value add” of the loop discussion is pointless overall, it’s viewed like a gas connection.  Just do it and the home is carbon free for life.
    2. The labor to install has the same number of piping, electrical and control connections - so it’s nearly identical from really 2 to 5 tons for GSHPs.  The increase in the equipment cost from 3 to 4, or 4 to 5 is also relatively small - hundreds not thousands.  The ground loop can be standard for the range but even if it’s a bit larger, the added rebate for the larger system will keep the cost to the customer approximately level.