Northampton launches energy-saving programs

  • Rusty, a longhaired chihuaua, keeps cozy with help from a propane fireplace. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 7/18/2017 11:46:56 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city wants to help residents and businesses stay warmer this winter, more cheaply than before.

Two new programs, HeatSmart Northampton and ener-G-save, will spread the word about energy-saving technologies and support their use.

HeatSmart Northampton will assist residents in installing discounted cold-climate air source heat pumps. Ener-G-save will provide homeowners with free thermal images of their homes to identify energy leaks and help them find solutions. Since heat pumps work best in homes that have been well insulated and sealed, the two programs complement one another.

HeatSmart Northampton

Heat pumps can heat and cool all or parts of a home or business.

“The goal of this program is to raise awareness about these pumps,” Chris Mason, Northampton’s energy and sustainability officer, said. “They are better for the environment and for residents, but most people don’t even know they exist.”

Air source heat pumps do not produce heat. Instead, they extract and move heat, using a refrigerant. In summer, they cool a home’s interior by extracting heat from the indoor air and expelling the warmer air. In the winter, the pump absorbs heat from the exterior air and then pushes it indoors.

According to the city’s website, “A cold climate air source heat pump can do this even when the winter air is well below freezing: today’s cold climate air source heat pumps can extract heat from the air all the way down to minus-13 degrees F.”

The pumps produce fewer greenhouse gases per unit of heat than any other heat source, Mason said.

“Residents can spend less money in their home and more money on other things in the city,” Mason said. “These pumps will keep more money in the community.”

Express Plumbing and Heating, a Hatfield company, has agreed to sell pumps at a 10 to 15 percent discount, depending on the specific equipment needed. The company was selected for the city program based on qualifications and pricing. Mason said the company is betting the program will bring in enough business to warrant the reduced pricing.

Starting next month, Mason and his HeatSmart team of volunteers will be reaching out to residents, handing out information at events throughout the city and holding workshops where residents can ask questions and connect with a contractor.

Starting now, residents can take an online survey on the city’s website to express their interest in the pumps.

Through the survey and other outreach efforts, Heat-Smart will help connect homeowners with Express. Then it will be up to the homeowner to complete the purchase and schedule the installation.

The HeatSmart program is a collaborative effort among five New England communities — Northampton, Boston and Somerville; Portland, Maine; and Providence, R.I. Together, they received a $125,000 grant from the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, according to the CNCA website.

The money from the grant will pay a consultant who will assist the cities in running their programs, Mason said. No money is going directly to any city.


The city’s other program, ener-G-save, will provide homeowners with thermal images of their homes to help them identify heat leaks.

Ener-G-save, a philanthropically funded pilot project, has already taken images of 100,000 homes in the Pioneer Valley. Uli Nagel, ener-G-save project manager, explained that she and her team have reviewed the images and selected the 20,000 homes that will benefit the most from energy audits and weatherization.

Letters are scheduled to be sent to those homeowners around Sept. 12. The letters will include information on free energy audits, financial incentives and contractors who weatherize their homes.

“Many homes in New England have huge potential when it comes to saving energy,” Nagel said. “There’s a lot of potential around this area for people to spend less money and have a much more comfortable home.”

Springfield philanthropist Harold Grinspoon started the ener-G-save program after he learned about a new technology developed by a company called Essess that can identify home energy leaks quickly and cost-effectively.

Ener-G-save hired Essess to use its specially equipped cars to survey the area.

Roof-mounted thermal imaging cameras on the cars scan from the street, usually capturing three sides of a given home, showing heat radiating off the structure.

Ener-G-save will run in 10 area towns: Agawam, Amherst, Belchertown, Chicopee, Deerfield, Greenfield, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Northampton and Springfield. Ener-G-save is working with staff and volunteers in each town to help them meet their energy-efficiency goals.

Andra Rose, coordinator at Mothers Out Front Amherst, a volunteer for the ener-G-save program, plans to be at the Amherst Farmers’ Market this Saturday. She’ll be demonstrating thermal-imaging technology by taking photos of (warm) people with (cold) ice cream cones.

“We want to get people interested not just in ener-G-save but also in the general need to make a difference,” Rose said.

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