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Your next Airbnb could be heated and cooled with a climate-friendly heat pump

a silhouette of a woman sits with a cup looking out of a window at mountains and wind turbines
The view from an Airbnb // Photo Credit: Karsten Winegeart // Unsplash

Airbnb is launching a new pilot program that aims to slash home emissions by offering cash rebates for hosts to weatherize and electrify their vacation-rental homes.

In 2022, Airbnb successfully launched programs in the U.K. and France, and now Massachusetts hosts have the opportunity to reap both the climate and monetary benefits of switching to heat pumps and making other energy efficiency upgrades.

The program launched just ahead of Earth Day. According to a Thursday press release, Airbnb will offer $2,500 in grants for energy-efficient improvements that can reduce their heating and air-conditioning costs.

Up to $2,000 of this can be dedicated to air source heat-pump installations. According to the nonprofit Rewiring America, heat pumps are three to five times more energy efficient than traditional heating systems, run on electricity, and work in all climates.

The remaining $500 of the rebates can be dedicated to weatherization energy-efficiency upgrades such as air sealing and insulation, which can cut heating and cooling costs for the typical homeowner by 20%.

“Nearly two-thirds of Hosts in the U.S. say they plan to use the money they make on Airbnb to cover rising costs of living. With energy prices increasing, this program provides another way to support Hosts and save them money,” Ameet Konkar, the Head of Sustainability at Airbnb said in a statement.

“Our goal is to enable our Massachusetts Host community to use more of their earnings for essential costs rather than their energy bills, all while doing what’s best for the environment,” she added.

Aside from the monetary benefits, making the upgrades also benefit the planet. Because heat pumps are up to four times more efficient than traditional heaters, they have the potential to save anywhere from one to seven metric tons of carbon emissions every year.

As the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center estimates, switching off an oil or electric resistance system and switching on an efficient heat pump reduces its annual carbon emissions by at least three metric tons.

To put that into perspective, one metric ton of planet-warming CO2, or about 907 kilograms (kg), is roughly equivalent to an international flight from New York to London which emits 986 kg of CO2. That’s more than the citizens of some countries produce in an entire year.

The vacation rental company says the heat pump and weatherization program advances its clean energy goals and its ultimate ambition to operate as a net zero company by 2030.

According to Airbnb’s 2021 commitment, it plans to do this by reducing its global carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning its global offices to 100% renewable energy, “investing in quality nature-based solutions to offset residual emissions,” like reforestation projects, and launching supplier sustainability programs like this one.

As Canary Media reports, according to consultancy firm Abode Energy Management — which Airbnb is partnering with to guide hosts through the process of transforming their rentals — the program will likely have some 100 hosts in the initial phase. Hosts have until May 31 to sign up.

Airbnb says hosts were enthusiastic about the programs in Europe. Following the program in Massachusetts, Clark Stevens, head of stakeholder initiatives at Airbnb, told Canary Media Airbnb could roll out similar offerings in other states down the line. ​

Across the country, Airbnb’s rebates combined with federal tax  credits from the Inflation Reduction Act of 30% up to $2,000/year for 2023 through 2032 for heat pumps, make the machines all the more affordable. There are similar federal incentives for weatherization too, coming in at 30% to $1,200/year.

“I’ve been a Superhost for over five years and keep close track of my energy bill,” one host said via Airbnb’s release. “As a Host in a home built in the 1970s, I’ve been wanting to make upgrades to improve my insulation and heating systems not only for my pocket but also for the environmental impact.”

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