HeatSmart Tompkins, a home-grown community non-profit which helps residents access the benefits of heat pumps and energy efficiency, has named a new program director to administer a $200,000 grant which will help the organization continue its mission for another two years. HeatSmart Tompkins, founded as Solar Tompkins, is a grassroots organization committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through implementation of clean and renewable energy technologies such as heat pumps, solar wind and increased home insulation and sealing.
Tompkins County has been a leader in the adoption of energy efficient air and ground source heat pumps thanks in part to the outreach and education provided by HeatSmart Tompkins. Heat pumps use refrigeration technology to capture the free solar heat in the air or the ground and use it to heat or cool buildings. These systems are 2-4 times more efficient than the most efficient fossil furnaces and are considered one of the key technology solutions for transitioning off fossil fuels to curb climate change. According to the “New York State Decarbonization Pathways Analysis”, 50 -70% of heating system sales need to be heat pumps by 2030 to stay on track to meet the carbon reduction goals codified in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) passed by the New York State legislature in 2019.
The grant, awarded through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Program Opportunity Notice (PON) will help HeatSmart Tompkins conduct community outreach and education campaigns to inform residents about the benefits of heat pumps, home energy efficiency improvements and other clean energy technologies.
“We started in 2013 as Solar Tompkins,” explained Jonathan Comstock, founder and outgoing program director of HeatSmart Tompkins. “We ran the first big Solarize program in New York State to alert people locally to renewable energy solutions. Following the success of that program, we turned our attention to clean heating and cooling for even greater climate impact.”
“We learned that the technology was quite advanced and that heat pumps are popular in Europe and elsewhere, but haven’t caught on here,” said Brian Eden, chair of HeatSmart Tompkins. “The main reason for this is lack of familiarity with the technology for both contractors and the customers. We created HeatSmart to fill that information gap. We also help customers identify solutions for their buildings and quality contractors to implement them.”
HeatSmart Tompkins’ grassroots efforts attracted the attention of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the state authority which promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources.
“We immediately saw the potential of doing grassroots community outreach about energy efficiency solutions for homes,” said Scott Smith, program manager of NYSERDA’s Clean Heating and Cooling team. “Albany has shown great leadership in providing us ambitious goals for climate sustainability and we rely heavily on our community partners and support from across the state to help us achieve those goals. We are now funding 15 Clean Heating and Cooling campaigns across the state, all of which were inspired by the HeatSmart Tompkins model.”
“Now in our fifth year, HeatSmart Tompkins continues to innovate and lead,” said Lisa Marshall, the newly appointed program director. “We’re incredibly grateful to have been a recipient of a $200,000 grant from NYSERDA that will carry our program forward into 2022. Our goal for this next phase of HeatSmart is to move past the early adopters to more mainstream customers, making heat pumps the default heating systems in Tompkins County. New York State is at a critical juncture in terms of our energy policy; we have to rapidly scale up energy efficiency measures including heat pump adoption to meet Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading climate goals. HeatSmart Tompkins is proud to lead the way in making that happen.”