The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) contracted with Lieberman Research to conduct this study to inform the design of its residential Variable Speed Heat Pump (VSHP) program. The study had three objectives: 1) Characterize current sales, design and installation practices of residential HVAC contractors for central/ducted HVAC systems; 2) Determine any barriers or drivers for VSHP adoption; and 3) Identify HVAC contractors who are or are likely to be early adopters of VSHPs and their attributes.
Using data collected between October and November 2021, Lieberman Research found that HVAC contractors are already recommending VSHPs and expect VSHP sales to grow in the next five years. In fact, HVAC contractors typically offered homeowners “good,” “better” and “best” options to choose from to meet their comfort and budget needs. In these examples, VSHPs were most often positioned as the best, although most expensive, option. Unsurprisingly, high first cost was the primary barrier for VSHP adoption. The research team also found that sales and design technicians had the greatest influence on the overall purchase process and worked separately from the installers. The research also found that installers perceived VSHP installation as no more challenging than other heat pump installations, despite the added complexity of the equipment. NEEA is using these and other findings from the study to plan Market Transformation interventions for VSHPs in the residential HVAC market.