Independent Evaluation Finds Homeowners Extremely Satisfied With NEEA's Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Pilot Program

Pilot project expands product availability, installation goal exceeded by 35 percent

Jun 16, 2010, 11:30 ET from Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

PORTLAND, Ore., June 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) today released a third-party Market Progress Evaluation Report on the organization's Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Pilot Project, showing high rates of satisfaction among homeowners and contractors. The report includes findings on the costs, energy savings potential and consumer benefits of using ductless heat pumps as an alternative to electric baseboard or wall heaters in single-family homes in the Northwest. This is the first Market Progress Evaluation Report conducted on the pilot project.

"Ductless heat pumps are a prime example of how NEEA and our partners can help spur adoption of new, energy-efficient technologies," said Scot Davidson, director of market planning and operations at NEEA. "The evaluation report affirms that by emphasizing training, testing, and proper installation, we are helping to ensure the success of this technology in the Northwest."

Key findings of the report include:

  • Prior to ductless heat pump installation, most respondents reported dissatisfaction with the compromised comfort and high cost of operation associated with their existing zonal electric heat source. After installation, participants saw the value in ductless heat pumps as an energy efficient choice in home heating and cooling. NEEA's pilot demonstrated to manufacturers and installers the new supply and demand in the market, and recognized ductless heat pumps as a new opportunity to serve Northwest homeowners.  
  • Between 80 and 90 percent of respondents reported being "very" or "extremely satisfied" with the ductless heat pump, the installation process, and the incentives they received from partner utilities.
  • Nearly all (99 percent) participants in the pilot study reported that the ductless heat pump was now their primary heating source.
  • With the coordinated effort of utility incentives, the pilot exceeded its installation goal of 2,500 units by 35 percent — 3,899 ductless heat pumps were installed in the Northwest.
  • Most participants said their homes were more comfortable and had cleaner air after installation of the ductless heat pump.
  • Nearly 80 percent of installers gave high rankings to NEEA-sponsored orientation and training sessions.  
  • After having a ductless heat pump installed in their homes, the 20 percent of participants who had planned to purchase air conditioning equipment unanimously said they no longer planned to purchase air conditioning.

Ductless heat pumps typically have a wall-mounted component and deliver heated or cooled air directly into the home, avoiding efficiency losses associated with ductwork. They have been used in Asia and Europe since the 1970s and in U.S. commercial buildings since the 1980s, but are virtually unknown in the U.S. residential market. They are 25 to 50 percent more efficient than electric baseboard or wall heaters. The energy savings potential for ductless heat pumps in the Northwest is about 440 average megawatts — the equivalent of powering more than 331,000 homes each year, or a city the size of San Francisco.

NEEA commissioned Ecotope and Research Into Action, Inc. to research and author the report. Researchers surveyed 235 homeowners who had ductless heat pumps installed in their homes, 20 ductless heat pump manufacturers and 33 installation contractors.

This report is also the first to assess homeowner satisfaction with ductless heat pumps and the effects the pilot project is beginning to have in the market. Prior to the pilot general awareness of ductless heat pumps was low, there was a lack of availability and only a small number of installers were qualified to install ductless heat pump systems. Ductless heat pumps had typically been installed in remodeling projects, such as add-on rooms or "mother in law" dwellings, and were not typically installed in the main living areas of the home.

The pilot – the U.S.'s largest ductless heat pump residential demonstration project – showed how homeowners in a variety of Northwest climates could augment their electric resistance heating system, therefore using their older, less-efficient heating system less and saving energy and money. This demonstration will aim to determine the costs and energy saving potential of ductless heat pumps in this application and pave the way for accelerated market adoption in the future.

To address the barrier of product availability in the market, NEEA leveraged the market power of the Northwest to encourage leading ductless heat pump manufacturers to participate in the regional pilot. After securing utility support, NEEA recruited ductless heat pump manufacturers to bring technical training to the region, and conducted nearly 50 in-person (and 30 web-based) installer orientations. By the end of 2008, NEEA had reached 1,000 installers from more than 600 companies and created a quality assurance process to ensure proper installations.

To overcome the consumer barrier of cost, Northwest utilities collaborated to offer incentives up to $1,500. NEEA provided utilities, contractors and distributors a marketing outreach tool kit and developed industry and consumer websites. These combined efforts led to higher installation numbers, as well as high customer satisfaction.

Between October 2008 and December 2009, 59 participating Northwest utilities installed 3,899 ductless heat pumps through NEEA's pilot project. Seventy-four utility partners offered incentives to homeowners for installing ductless heat pumps, ranging from $400 to $2,375.

For more information on purchasing a ductless heat pump in the Northwest, visit

For Northwest contractors interested in training, or manufacturers interested in participating, visit

About the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) is a non-profit organization funded by Bonneville Power Administration (representing ~130 public utilities), the Energy Trust of Oregon (working on behalf of Portland General Electric and Pacific Power) and the following 11 utilities: Avista Utilities, Clark Public Utilities, Cowlitz County PUD, Eugene Water & Electric Board, Idaho Power Company, NorthWestern Energy, PacifiCorp, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle City Light, Snohomish County PUD and Tacoma Power. We work in collaboration with our stakeholders and strategic market partners to accelerate the market adoption of energy-efficient products, technologies and practices within homes, business and industry. For more information on NEEA visit

SOURCE Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance