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Green Building News

Efforts to Ban Gas Hookups in New Construction Widen

Massachusetts community adopts new bylaw modeled after efforts in California to lower carbon emissions

Atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase, prompting new warnings from scientists. Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also are on the rise, according to a new UN report. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

A campaign to lower carbon emissions by prohibiting fossil fuels connections in new buildings has moved to the East Coast.

In mid-November, a town just outside Boston became the first in Massachusetts to ban oil and gas installation in new buildings as citizens there joined a number of California communities that have already enacted similar bylaws.

There were only 3 votes against the proposal at a town meeting in Brookline, Massachusetts, The Boston Globe reported, as the community of roughly 58,000 voted to tackle climate change by requiring new homes to run on electricity alone.

The measure, which must still be approved by the state attorney general’s office, was opposed by oil and gas interests, real estate developers, and others. It affects both new construction and major renovations.

“Prohibiting Brookline residents from choosing an affordable, reliable, and entirely legal heating fuel like natural gas or bioheat is outrageously unfair,” Stephen Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council, a trade association for the gas and oil industry, told the Globe. “If cities and towns can start trying to outlaw utilities licensed by the state Department of Public Utilities from serving willing customers who want to buy energy from them, we’re heading toward regulatory and legal chaos.”

The real estate industry fears the measure would increase construction costs for new buildings and make utility expenses higher for homeowners. A court challenge is expected.

Berkeley, California, became the first community in the country to take this step with a vote in July. More than a dozen other California communities have since followed suit. Proponents argue that every house and high-rise built today will be in place for decades, and so will the fossil fuel infrastructure unless steps are taken to convert buildings to fuels that are less damaging to the environment.

USA Today reports that some 35% of U.S. households have gas stoves. The American Gas Association, a trade group representing more than 200 local gas companies, says an average of one new gas customer is added every minute.

The fossil fuel bans that have been approved so far differ in some of the details. In Brookline, the measure allows exemptions for restaurants, medical labs, and other buildings when there are no realistic alternatives to burning fossil fuels, the Globe said. Waivers also could be considered by a new town board.

Tamara C. Small, CEO of a trade group for the commercial real estate industry, said in a letter to the Brookline Planning Board that it was important not to hinder construction of new housing, or make it any more expensive for town residents.

She also noted the region’s electricity grid relies mainly on natural gas, so the environmental benefits from the ban on new gas and oil hookups in buildings may be a while in coming.

Climate chaos ahead without cuts, UN says

Brookline’s initiative may seem trivial or disruptive to its critics, but supporters see efforts to phase out the use of fossil fuels as an urgently needed step. And scientists warn that efforts to cut carbon emissions to date have not been nearly enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

In a new report, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said measurements of several greenhouse gases showed above average emissions in 2018 as CO2 levels reached an all time high. The gap between lower emissions targets adopted by many industrialized countries and what’s actually being dumped into the atmosphere are “glaring and growing,” The Guardian reported.

Scientists warn that emissions must be cut by half by 2030 if the global temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5°C, the point beyond which climate change will be disastrous. That now seems unlikely to happen, WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas told the newspaper.

“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change,” Taalas said. “We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.”

He added that the last time Earth had seen a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was between 3 million and 5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea levels were between 10 and 20 meters higher.

The WMO report published on November 25 said the global average concentration of CO2 was 407.8 parts per million in 2018, an increase from 405.5 ppm the year before. Averages are now 50% higher than they were before the industrial revolution began in the mid 18th century.

John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian: “The number is the closest thing to a real-world Doomsday Clock, and it’s pushing us ever closer to midnight. Our ability to preserve civilization as we know it, avert the mass extinction of species, and leave a healthy planet to our children depend on us urgently stopping the clock.”

-Scott Gibson is a contributing writer at Green Building Advisor and Fine Homebuilding magazine.

38 Comments

  1. Tom May | | #1

    Only 3 votes against....out of how many? 7?

    1. Brendan Meyer | | #2

      3 out of 200 town members. No word on what fuel would produce the electricity that would be the compelled alternative.

      1. BostonBIC | | #3

        As of 2017 Brookline entered into a bulk purchasing agreement to supply residential customers with electricity that comes from at least 25% renewable sources. This is the default and you need to opt out if you want the conventional mix provided by the utilities. You can also opt up to 100% renewable for an additional $0.02/kWh.

        1. User avater
          Dana Dorsett | | #4

          >"You can also opt up to 100% renewable for an additional $0.02/kWh."

          Or you can go shopping on the state operated online markeplace ( http://www.energyswitchma.gov/ )and find 100% renewables contracts for LESS than the utility's standard mix.

      2. User avater
        Dana Dorsett | | #5

        >" No word on what fuel would produce the electricity that would be the compelled alternative."

        In the ISO-New England region writ-large only about half the power going on to the grid is from fossil fuels. In MA the utilities are mandated to have a minimum of 25% renewables (either contracted, or in a few cases owned by the utilities), but being a decoupled utilities market anyone outside of the isolated municipal utilities can buy their power through brokers from a variety of sources. In a 1-3 year contract through brokers it's usually possible to buy 100% renewables and still beat the large utility's standard mix on price. The state operated online electricity market lives here:

        http://www.energyswitchma.gov/

        Utilities aren't allowed to enter into multi-year contracts from generation companies, but ratepayers can. The regulated utilities can only change rates every six months, (November through April, May through October) and it's usually more expensive in winter than in summer, partly due to higher wholesale gas contract prices paid by the gas-fired generators during the space-heating months. Fixed-rate pricing through brokers is also usually more expensive for contracts beginning in the November through April, the primary reason being that it's easier to beat the utilities and fatten their margins during the high rate season. So if switching over it's generally better to go shopping in the May through October time frame when the standard utility price is lower.

        In my case, I'm currently paying about 2 cents LESS for 100% wind than the winter-priced standard mix from the utility. During the summer season it's pretty much a wash, but it's still 100% wind rather than the higher-carb standard mix source.

        1. Jonathan Beers | | #6

          The key to "beneficial electrification" is to green the grid as fast as possible.

          The benefits vary among regions, and the EPA's Power Profiler gives emission rates for various regions. You can enter a zip code at:
          https://www.epa.gov/energy/power-profiler#/

          For Brookline region:
          https://www.epa.gov/energy/power-profiler#/NEWE

          1. User avater
            Jon R | | #7

            I agree, replace coal with wind and utility-scale solar immediately. I'm going to be optimistic and say this will happen soon and it's wise to build new houses with 100% electric, even in areas where it currently increases carbon emissions.

      3. Tom May | | #10

        Only 200 people live there?......0.003 % of the population is the majority? ....I love voting, i've never done it, just like watching it.

        1. Trevor Lambert | | #11

          I think you'll find it's 0.3%, not 0.003%. That's the elected, representative government. Would you also expect that the population of the entire United States should equal the size of Congress?

          1. Tom May | | #12

            200 out of 58800 people....do the math.
            Yes the total population should have a say, not the "elected" few or better yet, let the individual make their own choice. Think for yourself, unless you can't and have to have someone else do your thinking for you.

          2. Trevor Lambert | | #26

            I did do the math. It's 0.3%. Do you know what % means?

          3. Tom May | | #37

            You're right, I shouldn't have included the percent sign, but either way it boils down to 3 / 1000 of the population, not quite the majority you would expect for something that is being voted on.

  2. DCContrarian | | #8

    In that region fuel oil is very common for home heating, and coal is often used to generate electricity. Natural gas is better than either of those. I'd start with banning fuel oil and doing what they can to get the coal out first.

    1. BostonBIC | | #9

      It's actually two separate problems. This law related to new construction and gut renovations with the idea that there's no point putting in NEW natural gas infrastructure while simultaneously saying we will be cutting and eventually eliminating our carbon emissions and for the next several decades (which is an MA goal). The current use of fuel oil is definitely something worth addressing, but is a parallel issue. As for the mix of resources used to generate electricity, the EPA page linked by Jonathan Beers shows that this region has a coal contribution more than 10X less than the national average.

      1. Tom May | | #13

        Read my lips....there will be no NEW infrastructure.....eliminating our emisions from.....MASSgoals.... You all get to go electric and we have control of the switch..
        Why not lobby for free, clean, limitless energy, same energy the universe provides instead of arguing about which dirty fuel is best or where it can be used,

  3. Tom May | | #14

    "The climate is changing, why aren't we?"...we are, just not for the better
    "Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also are on the rise".......Who cut the cheese...HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.......

  4. jbtvt | | #15

    What an incredibly ridiculous idea. That's one way to increase the supply of affordable housing I guess - make no one in their right mind want to move there! I would never buy or rent a home with electric only heat and neither would any other working class person I know, regardless of their ideology. Brookline is a lame, elitist town anyway. God forbid you park one block over their unmarked border overnight - but they're happy to send all the people who can't afford a private parking spot to clog up all the surrounding areas of Boston!

    1. Kristin Anderson | | #21

      Actually, here’s some affordable housing built to Passive House standards, with all electric heat powered by solar panels, going up now in the Fresh Pond area of Cambridge:
      https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2019/12/13/finch-cambridge-energy-efficient-affordable-housing

      And, in my town of Arlington, Massachusetts, in 2020 we will be starting a high school build that will also have solar panels and electric heat pumps.

      It appears that the price and the technology is there. It’s just a matter of educating all parties about it. And so why would you argue against it, unless you’re vested in the petroleum industry? Get back to me about this after you check who’s signing your paycheck. Thanks!

      1. jbtvt | | #22

        "Actually" implies that you've somehow corrected me on my statement about affordable housing. If you think you have, I suggest you reread my comment. In any case, this project is powered entirely subsidies so of course it's affordable, for the few hundred people fortunate enough to get in on it - everyone around them is footing the bill.

        "all electric heat powered by solar panels" Bull. The electric heat in this building is powered by the grid. There is nowhere near enough space on the roof to power even 5% of this building - even for the 8 hours a day we currently have a chance at sunlight. I assume you know this and are just using intentionally disingenuous phrasing.

        "And so why would you argue against it, unless you’re vested in the petroleum industry? " God, this is an infuriating but not-at-all-surprising statement. Typical tone-deaf, far-left knee-jerk response. How about COST? You know, that thing most people in the real world have to take into consideration?

        https://www.mass.gov/info-details/household-heating-costs Electric resistance heat costs 350% more than gas heat, every single year. Even your school's heat pumps will cost 33% more - just to run, and I hope you know they're basically useless once temps hit single digits, and of limited use requiring backup electric resistance heat once temps get below freezing - which is half the year here.

        https://asm-air.com/heat-pump/heat-pump-installation-cost-price-guide/ Installation costs for a 60k BTU systems are $12k+ - without ducting. So that's good for a single room. More common is to have multiple heat pumps in various areas of the house so you're generally looking at multiple smaller units costing $5k+ each, installed from 12k-18k BTU. And you STILL need backup heat for the average winter day, say nothing of night!

        I recently got a quote for a 120k gas boiler, installed for $4k. Granted that doesn't include ductwork or in my case radiators either, but no backup heat required, a fraction of the cost to run, and 10% of the upfront cost to purchase. And it will likely still be running fine in 25-50 years, vs 15 years for your heat pumps.

        The article you posted really shows how marketing triumphs over real-world results for people with hardcore ideology. You see "sustainable" and "affordable" in a headline and jump behind it, regardless of the project costing nearly double typical townhome costs per sq ft ($25 mill for 125k sq ft. And still, all you're getting for the money is blown in fiberglass insulation, an absolutely standard vapor barrier with standard window wrap, triple glazed windows which have a fraction of the R value of a basic 2x4 wall assembly, and a little outcropping over them so they can say "passive solar". Also, I highly doubt those windows have "no thermal breaks". It's a gimmick, and an expensive one to build and even more expensive to continue to subsidize, but as long as they use the right buzzwords, half the country will fall right in line!

        1. Kristin Anderson | | #25

          jbtvt said, "this project is powered entirely subsidies so of course it's affordable,"

          ok, unless i'm misreading you, this is NOT true at all. It's not entirely paid for in subsidies. The subsidies help to make it more affordable to build, yes. In Massachusetts we have this great tax on our energy bill that goes towards subsidizing things like insulation and energy star appliances, including ASHPs. If you're from "live free and die" New Hampshire, where the tax is cheap, I can see you might not like the idea of this kind of subsidy. But it's super awesome for us "elitists" here in the Greater Boston area, especially for those of us who can't otherwise afford blown in cellulose insulation, etc. It becomes cheap enough through this program that it literally pays for itself within a year.

          Please don't tell me that the petroleum industry isn't receiving subsidies themselves. I wish we knew the real cost of gas after all those subsidies are factored in, along with the residual costs associated with fracking - you know, the cost of the damage to people's homes and health.

          One thing we can all agree on is that electric resistance heating is not cheap. Anyone purchasing a new house should look as hard at the annual cost of home utilities as they do at the cost of their monthly bank loan. And here's another way to think of it: Maybe builders should be encouraged to do the right thing, and consider the cost of those utilities over the life of the structures they are building, rather than simply passing their cheap construction onto the poor homeowner.

          Also, there are NE homes that are being built with heat pumps that do not have back up heat. And it becomes way cheaper to power heat pumps if you can generate your own electricity.

          As for the solar panels on that development at Fresh Pond, you're correct: I'm not aware that the building is going to be energy neutral. Still, it will have solar panels on it and that's a great thing, something all new construction should feature! If you gave me a quarter for every little 1300 sf cape in my neighborhood that gets turned into a $1,300,000 3000 sf "colonial" with dormers and no solar panels, I'd be rich!

          Lastly, I apologize for suggesting that you work for the gas companies. But I'd be super surprised if there wasn't a single paid gas company troll on this comments thread....

          I hope you have a good night. xxoxoxox, Kris

          1. jbtvt | | #27

            If you pay a surcharge on your energy bill, and then that surcharge is later deducted from your home improvements should you choose to make them, the home improvements are not "cheaper". If anything, given the lack of interest earned they're more expensive. You've simply prepaid for them, without agency. Maybe someone would rather put the money towards their child's education. Maybe they'd rather spend it on crack. It should be their choice to make, just like the choice to use natural gas should be.

            I agree petroleum shouldn't receive subsidies. Why do you feel differently about Chinese solar panels made possible by human rights abuse, and non-recyclable Tesla lithium battery packs, and giant plastic heat pumps full of refrigerant and rare-earth metals (brought to you by child labor) that will likely end up in a landfill in 15 years? Very little e waste is disposed of properly, let alone recycled.

            "Also, there are NE homes that are being built with heat pumps that do not have back up heat." No there aren't. The heat pumps you're referring to have built in resistance heat strips.

            And it becomes way cheaper to power heat pumps if you can generate your own electricity. No it isn't. Micro generation will never outprice macro generation. It seems cheaper right now because it's heavily subsidized, if everyone was doing it and those subsidies were spread among them it wouldn't even be close.

            I'm all for energy efficiency, and weatherization. That's why I'm here. Heavy handed legislation, along the lines of something so absurd as prohibiting people from using natural gas is not the way to win hearts and minds, and if you lose that, you lose the fight. Brookline is elitist, no air quotes needed, and this legislation epitomizes that.

        2. Burninate | | #30

          We are in a natural gas supply bubble right now. Since you can't economically store large amounts of natural gas, and demand is mostly inelastic, and lots of shale hydrofracking projects launched before 2008 matured over the past decade, this means that natural gas is priced extremely low right now. There's lots of modest-flowrate 'stranded' refineries and oil/gas wells where we're literally burning methane onsite as a waste product because at current prices it would be too expensive to pipeline it away. In the last 25 years, prices have been this low for less than one cumulative year.

          https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/images/2017.01.13/main.png

          https://www.macrotrends.net/2478/natural-gas-prices-historical-chart

          This will make gas look very economical at present, but we don't know what we don't know about future economic conditions 10 or 20 or 30 years down the line; In the 2000's in between recessions gas averaged three or four times the current price. Your gas company currently pays about $0.23 per therm ($2.30 per MMBTU) wholesale, and you pay around $1.50 per therm on your utility bill in the Boston area.

          If we do engage in carbon emissions reduction, Carbon taxes on emissions of 5.3kg CO2 per therm are likely to range from $0.053/therm at $10/tonCO2 to $0.53/therm at $100/tonCO2. Natural gas is relatively low-carbon as a fuel; On the other hand, the fact that methane itself is a significant short-term greenhouse gas when directly emitted, combined with the fact that all our infrastructure leaks a bit, means we might expect larger targeted taxes (unpredictably so) on those methane emissions.

        3. Burninate | | #31

          You'd do better with some napkin math, whether you're correct or incorrect.

          >> Once finished, Finch Cambridge will become the second passive house building in Massachusetts. Apigian also designed the first; The Distillery North was built three years ago in South Boston. It's a luxury apartment building. The landlord there said it costs about $35 per month to heat and cool a two-bedroom unit.

          So about $1 per day, or about 8kwH per day. A two-bedroom footprint at 100m^2 at about 4kwh/m^2/day gets you about 400kwh/day. Reduce that by 85% for 15% efficient panels to 60kwh/day. Reduce that by 20% for charging losses on a battery system to 48kwh/day. Then divide by 6 units stacked on top of each other, and you're just about at the right amount of roof area.

          https://www.solarenergylocal.com/states/massachusetts/boston/

          The downside is that this is presumably an annual average. You're most interested in 'Dead of winter, cloudy day, snow pack' figures if you're probing grid-free operation, and this isn't anywhere near capable of that. And that's okay. This will lean on the municipal utility and/or fossil fuels a good deal in winter. But it's certainly not nothing.

        4. Burninate | | #34

          > Installation costs for a 60k BTU systems are $12k+ - without ducting. So that's good for a single room. More common is to have multiple heat pumps in various areas of the house so you're generally looking at multiple smaller units costing $5k+ each, installed from 12k-18k BTU. And you STILL need backup heat for the average winter day, say nothing of night!

          These are just not remotely reasonable figures for a well-insulated house, much less a certified Passive House (which takes superinsulation into fairly silly territory in the US). I don't think anybody's claiming that "passive solar" makes a whole lot of sense any more (especially in the US), but that doesn't mean you need to build to code-minimum either. A 40x40x20 oversized foursquare house which achieves a harmonic mean assembly R-value of 20 on exterior walls & attic (well below what we recommend, but accounts for significant amounts of windows) has 4800sqft of surface area heating air from -40 degrees to an interior temperature of 80 degrees is using only about 29000BTU/h. Add in four times the ASHRAE recommended minimum ventilation rate because we like very fresh air (5cfm/person * 4 = 20cfm/person), multiplied by five inhabitants (100cfm), multiplied by a unit constant (120*100*1.08), we add about 13000 BTU/h.

          https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/converting-heating-and-cooling-loads-air-flow-physics

          That's 42000BTU/h in the very worst night-time winter temperatures Minnesota is likely to throw at you, in a large house with a five inhabitants who don't like to wear many clothes and want very fresh air. Can you build worse than this? Easily. But, you know... maybe don't?

          If you can achieve a harmonic mean assembly R-value of 40 (and this will take some doing, as well as some window scale-back), you can cut that in half. If you confine yourself to a temperature delta of only 60 degrees (a 20 degree outdoor temperature) instead of 120, you can cut it in half again. Build a small house of 30*30*12 (900sf), and drop ventilation to merely twice the recommended minimum, and you can cut it in half again. Stick to a temperature delta of 30 (to keep the pipes from freezing, and have people wear coats) and you can cut it in half yet again.

          A $50 electric oil-radiator space heater puts out 1500W ~= 5000BTU/h.

          Try and remember this:

          https://www.ovoenergy.com/binaries/content/gallery/hero_img.png

          There is an enormous amount of difference between an older poorly built house and a newer well-built house. To achieve this kind of comfort level in these sorts of conditions using old tech and minimally insulated, leaky houses used to require lugging around a hundred cords of wood per winter (which, notably, didn't happen; you couldn't realistically heat this size house to this degree) versus less than five today.

      2. Eric Habegger | | #24

        Kristin, just read the article about Cambridge's affordable housing project. Very interesting and informative and one that I believe is the direction society should go. I'm also happy to see that a woman, Michelle Apigian, is the architect. There should be more women involved in this heavily male dominated industry. So don't let the trolls get to you!

        1. jbtvt | | #28

          "Trolls" who respond with facts, stats, and calculations? Not like those righteous sycophants bearing gifts of platitudes about how we need more people of "X" demographic in "X" industry, rather than people who are competent and want to be there, regardless of what demographic they check off? I don't think you know what "troll" means. Do you know what "white knight" means?

          1. Eric Habegger | | #29

            Context is everything. The context of all the statistics, calculations, and "facts" you have so far described are either misleading or false. It's a policy of diversion where your aim is to overwhelm and not convince, in the hope that the less informed us among will buy into your BS. And if they don't do their own research then your hope is to convince everyone that facts and information is elitist. And these elites armed with knowledge "hate" everyone that is less informed . Sorry but it's not true. Mostly it is just sad that you resort to it. If you're so proud of your arguments and want to be taken seriously and not just as a troll then why don't you use your real name?

          2. James Someone | | #32

            Massachusetts is a conundrum in itself. Besides the wealthy pockets like the islands and boston; is mostly in a decaying state of old industry collateral damage and narrow range bloodlines that have secured self existence by clinging to society like a barnacle.

            High rates of overdose, cultural alcoholism, underemployment, houses starting in the 400's, native american decline, this old house, art poor/farm poor chic and organizations like trustees of reservation pulling a land grab on high value real estate than charging folks admission while making hefty profit in the name of conservation. there are 49 other states one can live in.

          3. Malcolm Taylor | | #35

            Eric,

            If I was registering on a website now I doubt I would use my real name. There is no reason to open your life to the scrutiny of random strangers on the internet.

  5. Tom May | | #16

    Ban Gas Hookups! You think there is any connection to the big, bogus gas explosion scare we had earlier this year in MA? Similar things happening elsewhere for some reason....???? What's the agenda.....???? They just trying to do what is best for us and the environment.....???? Problem, reaction, solution.....

    1. Malcolm Taylor | | #17

      That's funny - I was thinking exactly the same thing. Only not about the gas explosions, but about the Illuminati controlling the level of the water at my local hydro dam!!!

      1. Tom May | | #20

        Of course it's all about control, no matter what it is, and whatever industries in which they have invested in order to get a return. Once they have everybody change over to one thing, they make it illegal and make them change back to another. We have to stop letting these policy makers, who are not engineers and the like, make the decisions with regards to these industries as to what is best for us or should I say them.

    2. jbtvt | | #18

      No, I don't. But I do think that tin foil hat done fried yo brain...

      1. Tom May | | #19

        Don't you mean aluminum foil.....????

        1. jbtvt | | #23

          Nah, aren't the illuminati spraying aluminum from jets in their sinister plot to control the minds of the population and prevent them from dying of measles? No flat-earther worth his or her salt would be caught dead with a roll of that poison!

  6. Deleted | | #33

    “[Deleted]”

  7. Eric Habegger | | #36

    @Malcolm #35
    I can see that what you're saying is a valid concern. But I'm 66 and I guess I've finally decided that I'd prefer to be loved or hated for who I really am. I think for everyone that may hate me for some things I've said there may be an equal number who love me for them. I just don't want to end up 6 feet under and feel I haven't taken a risk and said what I really think under my real name. It carries more weigh and more risk, but hey, you only live once. Don't hide your light under a bushel. Of course I know when to pull my punches and don't say things to just be provocative, even if it doesn't seem that way. Most of the pulling of punches is in the form of my not saying anything and trying to keep myself scarce unless I have very strong feelings about something.

  8. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #38

    jbtvt writes:

    >""Also, there are NE homes that are being built with heat pumps that do not have back up heat." No there aren't. The heat pumps you're referring to have built in resistance heat strips."

    That's a commonly held misconception. Not all heat pumps have built in heat strip. MOST cold-climate mini-splits (ductless or ducted) DON'T have that feature even as an option. While it's sometimes possible to add a strip-heat "toaster" as backup to a mini-ducted mini-split, most installations using cold climate models don't bother (unless required to by local codes.)

    I've personally been involved with of a handful of homes in Massachusetts heated & cooled with ductless mini-split heat pumps without any sort of back up heat. Only one of those houses (a deep energy retrofit on an 1890s vintage house) has better than code minimum R-values, U-factors and air tightness. Only one of them spent over $12K on the system (4 tons of multi-split on a way-sub-code house), some of which was rebated after the fact bringing the net to under $10K.

    >"https://asm-air.com/heat-pump/heat-pump-installation-cost-price-guide/ Installation costs for a 60k BTU systems are $12k+ - without ducting. "

    Feels a bit like a straw-man here.

    Most existing single family houses in Brookline don't have design heat loads as big as 60K BTU/hr. Only the largest NEW construction homes built to to IRC 2018 code minimums (the statewide standard) would have loads that big. The loads of code-min condos are usually well under 20K BTU/hr, often under 10,000 BTU/hr. (My ~2400' sub-code 1920s antique house +1600' of insulated basement in a somewhat cooler part of MA than Brookline gas a design heat load less than 40K. If it were all brought up to current code minimums it would be less than 25K.)

    So sure, buying a new yacht would be pretty expensive, even without sails & rigging. But a dinghy right sized for the needs of new code min construction isn't nearly as bad:

    https://www.masscec.com/cost-residential-air-source-heat-pumps

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