Integrating Air Source Heat Pumps and Solar Power

Learn about the unique partnership between N.E.T.R., Inc. and Boston Solar as the companies join forces to evaluate solar power and air source heat pumps in residential homes. Listen or read more to hear from Mike Cappuccio, owner of N.E.T.R., Inc., and David Remillard, director of marketing at Boston Solar, discuss the benefits to this relationship.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Mike Cappuccio, owner of N.E.T.R., Inc. and David Remillard, director of marketing at Boston Solar. Mike and David, welcome.

Mike Cappuccio: Good morning John. How are you?

David Remillard: Good morning.

John: So, Mike, how did this a relationship between N.E.T.R. and Boston Solar come about?

Mike:  Well, about the beginning of the summer I got a phone call from a vendor of ours that sold air source heat pumps and he said to me, he said, “you know, I think it’s a good idea that you talk to Daniel at Boston Solar about the relationships that you guys can form together because I think there’s a need for the two of you being together you know, having solar in a home and having air source heat pumps in a home. They kind of go very well together.”

So, we got together, we had a conversation about working together and we formed a relationship with that because we feel that there’s a good need for solar in a lot of our homes where the air source heat pumps are in.

One of the other reasons that really kicked in here was Daniel had started an energy audit company too and N.E.T.R., Inc. found that we really needed to have an energy audit partner, which was Mass Home Energy Experts?

David: Mass Energy Experts, yeah.

Mike:  Our sister company. I said that wrong. Okay.

David: They do go to homes.

Mike:  Okay. So that, you know, we decided at that point, you know, we really needed to form a good relationship with an energy auditor and one of the things I really liked was that when people call in here to N.E.T.R. we need to know if you’ve had an energy audit done on your house because we want to create a tight envelope on the house, we want to be able to do insulation and you know, they said they could provide this for us and one of the, they made it real easy for us to be able to book appointments and book that energy audit right for that homeowner right then and there on the phone.

So, I mean from there it kind of took off and the other part I really want to stress about is Boston Solar’s vision is very, very similar to ours. You know, when I really sat down and I talked to Daniel, the owner of Boston Solar, I mean he . . . his philosophy is customer comes first, sale comes second; same thing here. Our customer always comes first, sale comes second. We want to educate consumers and then sell them something.

So, I really liked that his vision was very, very similar to mine and you know, it’s almost scary when the two of us talk on the phone because we’re, our personalities are so similar and our companies are so similar. I mean they’ve been to our office, we’ve been to their office, we’ve done inter training together with our sales teams and everything. So, I feel this partnership is going to work out fantastic moving forward.

Benefits of the N.E.T.R. and Boston Solar Relationship

John: Right. And David, can you add to that in terms of what this relationship between N.E.T.R., Inc. and Boston Solar means to you?

David: Yeah, we think it’s a very strategic partnership but also, you know, the other bonus is that as Mike had mentioned, the visions are quite similar. We’re both really consumer focused and it would have been great. And what is happening that’s been great is we can offer that whole home solution. So, we’re not just going in there and saying only solar or you know, we can do the home audits and we can then make recommendations on how to, you know, basically save money and save the environment. And working with Mike and his team has been a great resource for us.

And so we treat it like we’re one big company in a sense when we’re getting into a person’s home where yes, our company’s focused on solar, but we’re also focused on what’s good for this customer, this consumer, what’s going to help them in the long run because it’s kind of developed a relationship with our company in the longer term and then it can help Mike’s company. And so together we feel like, you know, the one and one equals three, not just two.

John: Right and it really benefits the consumer, like you said, because somebody who is looking for solar, why are they looking for solar power?

David: They’re looking to maybe save money on their energy bill, but ultimately they’re, you know, using that to, they want to heat their home, they want to cool their home in the summer, they want to save some money on that. And then that fits right in with what Mike is doing with N.E.T.R., Inc. and the air source heat pumps and you know, and that sort of thing. So, you’re able to, if somebody wants solar energy, you can say, well, have you ever thought about air source heat pumps? And vice versa.

Mike:  It’s funny John, because sometimes you’re in a home and people don’t even think about an air source heat pump when the solar people are in the home. They’re, you know, they’re focused on solar and then you bring up to them, “Hey, well, you know, have you ever thought about heating your home with an air source heat pump?”

And sometimes you look at you with, you know, like, “well, what are you talking about?” You know what? I don’t, I don’t understand like I can do this and heat this, heat my home with my solar panels, and you’re like yeah you can do this. I mean there’re some things that need to be known up front if that is going to happen. I think David can chime in on that as far as you know there’s definitely going to be a good conversation about that if that is the case of what you’re going to do.

David: Yeah. We usually, when we go into the home, when we’re talking to someone about solar, one of the questions we ask is about usage and what your future usage is going to be. Are you thinking about adding a hot tub outside or what other electric things that you’re going to be doing and heating and cooling always comes up and so it made crystal clear sense to us that working with N.E.T.R., Inc. and Mike and his team would be a great solution.

So, we can go in there and have a trusted partner that we can discuss with someone and not just float a name out there or not have a solution for someone because you could potentially lose that customer as you’re talking to them.

Pairing Solar Power with Heat Pumps

John: Right. Is that an important consideration when somebody is getting solar installed that if they at some point in the future either then or later are going to start using something like air source heat pumps would use electricity. Does that affect, you know what type of solar panels they’re going to get? How many solar panels they’re going to get, things like that?

David: It does. Yeah. It’s the size of the system without getting too technical, we want to be able to go in and get rid of your electric bill but we want to understand what you’re going to be using in the future. So if you are considering an air source heat pump that’s going to increase and we can do the math and figure out, ‘oh this is going to do X amount more of electricity or kilowatt usage’ and so we suggest a system at this size versus a different size if you weren’t going to be adding air source heat pumps.

John: Uh-huh, right. And then Mike on your side, you know, if somebody is considering getting air source heat pumps installed in their house, the first thing they’re probably thinking is, well what’s my electric bill going to look like?

Mike:  Yeah, that, well that’s definitely a question that comes up. I mean, you know when we look at a home like that again, okay is it feasible to put this in? We work on what’s called COP, the co-efficiency of power and you know, is this a good fit? You know if you have a gas heater in your house, you know if you’re heating your home with gas, and you know you maybe want to switch it over to air source heat pumps. There is a point where it is more efficient to heat with the air source heat pump at certain points of the year with that, I mean, you know, if you have oil, propane, electric heat, things like that, I mean we’re definitely going to be a lot more efficient to heat our homes with the air source heat pump along with the solar panels with that heating your home with a gas furnace that runs on 110 volts with solar panels.

I mean, I think it would not go to add a huge amount of electric load to the system because you’re just running a fan at that point. But I mean, I think this from the solar point, they’re going to need to know on the air conditioning side, you know, do you have air conditioning in your house and how do you air condition your home in the summer time if you have, you know, three air conditioning units outside for a central air conditioning system in your home.

That’s going to come into play with the solar load at that point too. So, it’s definitely a real good fit. We, I mean, this is a great partnership. We have, I mean, we’re also, you know, we’re looking, we look at lead sharing every day, you know, as far as, you know, my company consultants and their solar team is out there looking at different things every day and, you know, talking to people about both technologies and how to integrate the technologies together to create a whole home solution for the homeowner.

Integrating Solar Power into a Home

John: Right, right. Let’s talk about the, each of the technologies a little bit individually. David, can you talk about solar power and what that means to a homeowner, how that works?

David: Sure. So solar panels, you see these big black panels and as the years have gone on, they’re much more efficient and costs are going down. There are great incentives out there. Federal tax credit, there is a state credit, there’s also a state rebate program called SMART, which pays you for the amount of production that your solar panels use. But in basic solar, very simple, you have solar panels that take in the sunlight, which is a direct current, gets into the panels, runs down a little wire, gets to a little inverter box. That inverter then turns it into alternating current, AC, and that powers your home.

And so our goal always when we meet with a homeowner is to really understand their consumption and whether, like as Mike was saying earlier, air conditioning, you know, a home usage of, you know, you’re running TV and your Wi-Fi all day, your kids playing games all day, what’s the electric usage because our goal is to get them to get down to a zero bill.

And that’s always the goal to be net positive for the folks that we talk to that are thinking of going solar and it’s also clean energy. Its renewable energy. So, we’re, you know, lowering the carbon footprint and that’s also important as well. So that’s our goal when we go into a home and that’s how solar basically works.

John: Right and it works all year round?

David: It does work all year round. I know there’s a misconception where in the winter time there is less sun out but if there is sun out and it’s shining, it’s hitting your panel and you are producing, you’re not producing as much as in the summertime, but you are producing. So, if there’s sun outside, you’re producing.

Integrating Air Source Heat Pumps into a Home

John: Okay. All right. And then Mike, talk a little bit about air source heat pumps and what they are and how that works?

Mike:  Well, John with the air source heat pumped there’s basically, you know, there’s a main condenser that goes outside. That’s, you know, if you had an essential air conditioning system in your home, you would have a condensing unit that sits outside, you know, the big unit outside with the fan running and everything.

So, we still have to have one of those, there is one of those that sits outside a little bit different though than a normal central air conditioning system, that almost looks kind of like we call them now the bigger units. It looks like a small hot tub. It’s, you know, it’s about three foot by three foot by three-foot-high, big square fan on the top.

Our units don’t look like that. Our units kind of look more like a suitcase. Some of them look like a small travel bag that you bring on a plane and some of them look like a big luggage bag you’d put on a plane. They’re taller, they’re thinner, they fit into a much smaller footprint space at that time.

They do run in the winter time, so we have to have them up on a stand. We keep them away from the snow in the winter and everything, so that piece sits outside and then inside of the home there is what call, it’s called either it’s an air handling unit, really is what goes inside the home and those come in a variety of different ways. They’re wall-mount units, there are floor-mount units, there are ceiling recessed units that go into the ceiling and then there’s the ducted units too that we can put duct work on, like a typical central air conditioning system.

And those units they, with all of those different types of indoor units, we get into what is now called a multi-zone unit. Okay. So, we have multiple indoor heads on the outdoor unit. That’s what we can, you know, we would call that our multi zone system. And then we also have what’s called a single zone system where we can just have one condenser outside and one indoor unit inside.

That’s a lot of like additions, room over garages, hot or cold spots in homes, a basement, things like that where you know a man cave, places like that where you could use our particular system. And again, you know, you could finish your basement and maybe just use the one air source heat pump with the solar system to run that at that point. Because that’s not going to draw a lot of energy. If you’re going to do the whole home with air source heat pump, you’re going to need a bigger solar system.

You know with the smaller air source heat pump is probably the less solar system, less downsize on the system that you’re going to need to do that space.

Working Together to Bring Solar Power and Air Source Heat Pumps to a Home

John: And so one advantage that the two companies have in terms of working together would be that communication between, you know, your company, Mike and yours, David, in terms of communicating with each other about how much energy is going to be required, what size solar panels you’re going to need in order to supply the amount of energy and because you guys are already working together and you have that relationship, that communication must be so much easier.

Mike:  Oh yeah, and I think one thing that really plays a key role that we haven’t really discussed is the home energy audit too, because that’s where we want to make the house tighter. We really want to look at the insulation value in the house.

The better the insulation, the easier it is to heat. So that’s where, you know, having a trusted partner that can really come in and do a good job, offer the installation. Now we’re offering three things. We’ve got tightening up the envelope, looking at what’s going on with the home, you know, providing the solar solution, providing the heating solution. So, you know, we really, this was a no brainer for me.

When I talked to Daniel about it, I’m like, wow, I said this is really good. I mean it differentiates both companies, too.

John: Right.

Mike:  You know, a lot of companies, like you said, just sell solar. Some people just do audits, some people just do air source heat pumps. We have everything now that we can bring to a homeowner and you know, as a homeowner, as you probably know yourself, John, ease of people coming in and not having to deal with, you know, like I call one person and you know, everything is done right. Right from step one. I’m not, you know, the homeowner doesn’t have to call the audit company. They don’t have to call the solar company. They don’t have to call, you know, a lot of this is our people on the front end know the solution of what needs to be done, it just makes it so simple.

John: Right. David, where do you see this relationship between the two companies going in the future?

David: Well, we’re off to a great start and, in fact, we even partnered on, a state program to work with the town of Needham, a Solarize Mass Plus program. And so I see us really doing well there. And then as we keep developing our relationship and customers will under, you know, I see a goal in the long-term as N.E.T.R. and Boston Solar being thought of as one company almost.

And Mass Energy experts as well as you know, your whole home solution. We’re here to help you be comfortable in your home. You know, as Mike says, tighten it up, making sure that, you know, people want to be comfortable in their home in New England. We have extreme weather during the seasons, a hundred degree high humidity in the summer, 20 below north-easters in the winter and you know, how are we going to keep you comfortable in your home, you get an audit, we do the insulation, we’ve got the air source heat pumps going, you’re powering it with clean energy. We’re doing good for the environment as well. So I see this just keep growing and growing.

Mike:  Yeah me too.

David: And you know, and being a resource for Massachusetts residents.

Mike:  The other thing too, I want to add like, you know, like David just said is, I mean it allowed us to go into these state programs now as joint partners together and saying, Hey, you know, look this, you know, a lot of times with these solar programs, they’re called solar plus programs. I’ve been in programs prior in the Newburyport area where I’m working with a solar company that I don’t even know who they are.

I’ve never heard of them. And you know, we don’t have the same philosophies and the same lead sharing benefits and stuff like that. This was, this is going to be a whole different type of program that we’re going to work with. And I think it’s going to open a lot of doors to a lot of other programs. We’ve already bid a few more and I think it’s going to give us a big advantage to go into the state programs and saying, Hey, look, you know, we have the whole program put together here. We, this relationship has been around for a while now. It hasn’t just started yesterday.

John: Right. That’s really great. Really great information and thanks again, Mike for speaking with me today.

Mike:  Thanks, John.

John: And thank you, David.

David: Thanks, John.

Mike:  And for more information, you can visit the N.E.T.R., Inc. website at or you can visit the Boston Solar website at

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