Study of Influences on Northwest Variable Speed Heat Pump Adoption

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (NEEA) Variable Speed Heat Pump (VSHP) program contracted with Lieberman Research to conduct qualitative market research about influences on ducted VSHP market adoption in the Northwest. Research objectives included 1) Determining influences on central ducted VSHP sales in the Northwest, including direct and indirect influences from NEEA’s Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project (NWDHPP) and other NEEA outreach initiatives, and 2) Identifying specific timing of any such influences on VSHP sales. Understanding these influences is essential for NEEA to design a ducted VSHP program that fully leverages existing market momentum, engages in only necessary interventions, and accurately estimates the naturally occurring baseline market share forecast. Lieberman’s team completed a secondary literature review (April-May 2022) and interviewed 13 market actors (May-June 2022) with years-long knowledge of residential HVAC markets, including HVAC manufacturers and distributors, program implementers, utility representatives, regional energy efficiency representatives, and a federal representative.

Key findings show that VSHP adoption began in the early 2000s with ductless VSHPs, roughly 10 years before ducted VSHPs became available. NEEA’s NWDHPP coincided with both ductless and ducted VSHP availability and appears to have directly influenced ductless VSHP adoption in the Northwest but indirectly influenced ducted VSHP adoption via engagement with manufacturers, utilities, and HVAC contractors. NEEA’s VSHP program team is using these findings to prioritize market interventions for ducted VSHPs and set assumptions for its naturally occurring baseline.

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