Can Contractors Keep Homes From Being Environmentally Friendly?

Adopting green home technology is more challenging than it seems

Running a home on green energy is more challenging than one might think.

Let’s say you’d like to reduce your home’s carbon footprint and wean it off systems that rely on fossil fuels. That’s a noble goal, and one which should be relatively easy to accomplish — most oil- and gas-based home appliances have electrical alternatives, for instance. And yet some homeowners with the resources and the willingness to make their houses more green are still finding barriers to doing so. Here, the challenge isn’t the cost or the equipment. It’s simply finding someone who’ll do the work.

A new article by Emily Pontecorvo at Grist illustrates the difficulties one homeowner faced in this arena and illustrates why getting contractors on board is an essential part of making home infrastructure more environmentally friendly.

The homeowner at the center of the article is Adam James, a resident of Ossining, New York. James works for an investment firm specializing in sustainable energy, so it’s not exactly surprising that he would want his family’s home to have a similar focus. Among the projects that James explored was adding an air-source heat pump to his house to upgrade his heating system.

After finding a list of nominally qualified contractors on the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) website, James began making calls. “Several didn’t respond to his inquiry. A few told him they didn’t do heat pumps,” Pontecorvo writes. “The rest said they could install heat pumps but tried to talk him out of it, explaining that a heat pump would be more expensive than a fuel oil system or a propane furnace, and that he would still need one of those as a backup source of heat.”

James’s dilemma points to a larger issue: if contractors aren’t on board with green technology, getting that technology adopted will be much more difficult. A NYSERDA development plan from 2020 factors in training on new technology, but the article suggests that the state government could do more to encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly appliances. Though the article does conclude on an optimistic note, with Pontecorvo noting a growing number of HVAC contractors who are enthusiastic about this new technology. It’s an encouraging start.

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