New York City is making a big push to change the way it heats its public housing units.
State and local leaders have pledged an initial $70 million investment in the development and production of 30,000 new heat pump units for use in the city’s public housing buildings, a move that transitions the homes away from using fossil fuels.
It also positions the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to be an early adopter in the new technology while giving residents a modern system of heating and cooling that they can directly control.
Heat pump technology provides cooling and heating from a single unit by moving heat between the indoor and outdoor spaces depending on the season. The process is achieved through the refrigeration cycle, which can be up to four times more efficient than traditional heating systems, such as boilers, which rely on on-site combustion of fossil fuels to produce heat, explained officials.
However, heat pumps are difficult to install, particularly in occupied units. As a result, many operators prefer to delay electric conversion in favor of in-kind replacement of fossil fuel systems.
The new commitment is part of the Clean Heat for All Challenge, an initiative spearheaded by NYCHA, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The program aims to develop an electrification product that can better serve the heating and cooling needs of existing multifamily buildings and hasten the transition to fossil-free heating sources.
The majority of NYCHA’s existing heating and domestic hot water systems are fed by central gas-fired boilers.
“For far too long, the infrastructure of our NYCHA developments have been allowed to crumble, all while the needs of our families in public housing went ignored and overlooked,” said Queens Borough president Donovan Richards Jr. “That's meant years of sweltering summer days and frigid winter nights without any recourse—or respect—for our residents, or any care for the carbon emissions these buildings emanate. But the Clean Heat for All Challenge represents a significant first step in flipping the script for thousands of families.”
The NYPA board of trustees recently awarded the funding through two seven-year contracts to Midea America and Gradient for the development and delivery of cold climate packaged window heat pump units.
Midea will develop 20,000 heat pumps that will enable rapid, low-cost electrification heating in the multifamily buildings. Headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, the company is a subsidiary of Midea Group, a global appliance manufacturer.
“The collaboration and commitment by these New York government agencies is inspiring, and we’re honored to be a primary provider of this important technology that will improve indoor air quality and expedite the electrification of heating,” said Kurt Jovais, president of Midea America. “Yet New York City is just a start. Building infrastructure comes with a significant environmental toll, and Midea’s cold climate packaged window heat pump and EVOX heat pump systems can change that narrative. This partnership reinforces our leadership role in accelerating the development and deployment of next generation hyper-efficient electric heat pumps that will help cities and states meet their electrification goals.”
Gradient, a San Francisco-based startup, was awarded a contract to manufacture 10,000 units. The proposed unit will be a cold climate heat pump capable of operating at low temperatures based on NYCHA’s specifications. The company intends to manufacture the product domestically in the United States.
NYPA is providing upfront financing and supporting the implementation of the challenge. NYSERDA is providing $13 million for the demonstration phase, including initial purchase, monitoring, and performance assessment, with funds approved through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Operating Plan. The housing authority will invest an additional $250 million—inclusive of the $70 million announced toward the initiative—to purchase and install the new equipment as well make additional building improvements.
NYCHA estimates a need for approximately 156,000 cold climate window heat pumps over the next five to 10 years in order to electrify its portfolio and significantly reduce greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 as required by local law.