Jared Grier is growing his business – out of thin air. The owner of Cape Cod Heat Pumps, Grier sells and installs energy efficient air source heat pumps, known as mini-splits for short. As the Commonwealth eyes a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, it’s an energy efficient industry that’s heating up fast.
Air source heat pumps provide both warm air and cool air. Using a compressor, much like a refrigerator or air conditioner, they extract heat from cool outdoor air in the winter to heat the home. In summer, they remove warm air from the house to cool it.
Since buying the company in 2018, Grier, based in Marstons Mills, now installs between 120 and 150 systems per year, mostly on the Cape.
Grier entered the HVAC industry 13 years ago, and in 2016 was brought in to run Cape Cod Heat Pumps. He then bought the company.
“Since then the company has done nothing but grow and build a reputation,” he says, noting it now has four vans and five full-time employees.
“I’ve had pretty much every role in the HVAC industry and now luckily I own my own company.”
The Air-Source Advantage
Unlike geothermal heat pumps, which take heat out of the earth, via a system of buried pipes, air source heat pumps extract heat out of the air. Grier says that air source heat pumps have become more popular than geothermal systems, especially in the northeast, where there is less space to install underground piping.
“Mini splits are actually the most common form of heating and cooling in the world,” says Grier.
But they’re still catching on in this country.
While air source heat pumps are slightly less efficient than geothermal heat pumps, they’re much less costly to install. A geothermal heat pump can cost $30,000 to do the drilling.
“You’ve got a $30,000 well that you’ve got to drill, on top of the additional mechanical equipment you have to install. Whereas I’m just using the air that’s available to all of us,” says Grier.
“Efficiencies are very similar, so you’re seeing air source taking over from geothermal,” he observes. “They’ve come a real long way in the past few years.”
The technology has advanced since such systems were first introduced in the United States about 30 years ago. Old ones have electrical back-up heaters, and get a bad rap, because they rely more heavily on expensive electricity when it gets very cold, Grier explains. But modern mini-splits run at full capacity at 5 degrees (they can operate at limited capacity at -15 degrees.)
Because they often do not involve ductwork, air source heat pumps are good for Cape Cod retrofits, and can be installed relatively inexpensively, he says. The absence of ductwork also increases efficiency, and heating and cooling is lost when it passes through ducts.
Because they’re so versatile, especially for retrofit projects, “I personally see these as the future of heating and cooling,” says Grier.
Working With Solar
Because air source heat pumps use electricity, they can also be efficiently powered by solar panels.
Grier notes that it’s not uncommon for his company to remove existing oil, gas or propane heating systems and replace them with his air source heat pumps, combined with solar panels.
“You can’t drill your own oil,” he says. But you can tap the rays of the sun.
While solar systems are still relatively expensive to install, he says they’re becoming more popular, noting that many custom homes are designed with solar, and many homes are being retrofitted.
“It certainly takes the right customer to make that investment, but I see it as the future,” he says.
The cost to install an air source heat pump system varies greatly, depending on the size and layout of the house. Typically, a system for a single zone starts at about $4,000 to $4,500, says Grier.
A number of rebates can offset that cost. Mass Save offers rebates that vary according to the system that’s being replaced, explains Grier. If replacing an electric system, the rebate is $1,250 per 12,000 BTUs. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) offers a $2,500 rebate if replacing a natural gas system, and there’s a federal tax credit of up to $500 for installations of high efficiency residential systems.
“The electrification of our cars and our homes, powered by clean energy, is part of a larger trend to shift away from fossil fuels,” says Grier.
“But if you have old-fashioned electric heat, which is efficient but costly to operate, this is a great year to do something about it, I’ve never seen the rebates so high,” says Grier.
The cost to run an air source heat pump varies according to how it’s operated and the type of equipment used. “It basically costs me one dollar a day to cool my house in summer,” says Grier.
He notes that if replacing an electric system, customers will see a heating and cooling bill reduction of between 30 to 50 percent. Oil and propane customers can also see savings. While natural gas is currently relatively inexpensive, Grier notes that it’s still a fossil fuel.
As fossil fuels are banned or discouraged, and with the Commonwealth pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050, Grier sees a bright future for his systems.
“What does that leave customers with?” he asks. “A heat pump system.”
For more information, visit www.ccheatpumps.com