Airbnb will help some hosts pay for new heat pumps

A pilot program in Massachusetts will give Airbnb vacation-rental owners $2,500 to install air-source heat pumps and make their properties more energy-efficient.
By Alison F. Takemura

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(Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine via Flickr)

Airbnb has a new program to help hosts slash carbon pollution by offering them cash rebates to weatherize and electrify their vacation-rental homes — available, for now, in Massachusetts.

While Airbnb successfully launched similar programs in the U.K. and France in 2022 — with enthusiastic responses from thousands of hosts, according to the company — this is the first of its kind in the U.S.

The incentives from Airbnb include up to $500 for energy-efficiency upgrades, such as insulation, and up to $2,000 for air-source heat-pump installations.

That $2,500 carrot tackles emissions as well as hosts’ energy costs. This program would save me a ton of money,” Elle Michelle, an Airbnb host in Massachusetts, said in a statement. 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.”

To access Airbnb’s rebates, hosts have to call the Bay State home, and their rental listing must be served by one of the state’s two biggest utilities, National Grid or Eversource. This allows hosts to benefit from the state’s utility-supported energy-efficiency program Mass Save so they can tap even more incentives: 75 percent or more off the cost of insulation projects, no-cost air sealing and a heat-pump rebate of up to $10,000.

Hosts can also take advantage of the federal benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act, including a 30 percent tax credit of up to $2,000 for heat pumps. All this makes for a towering stack of incentives for home energy upgrades.

The rebate program is the latest step Airbnb has taken to carry out its stated commitment to decarbonization. Last year, the company announced it was joining forces with ride-hailing service Lyft, online real estate brokerage Redfin, nonprofit Rewiring America and others to spur home electrification, with the goal of reaching 10 million of the 121 million U.S. households by mid-decade.

Though some Airbnb hosts have already embraced the movement to electrify everything, this new program will make it easy for newcomers to join in. Airbnb is partnering with consultancy Abode Energy Management to guide hosts through the process of transforming their rentals, from scheduling a no-cost home energy audit to accessing the Mass Save and Airbnb rebates. (Abode also trains community heat-pump coaches to encourage uber-efficient electrified heating in the state.)

We’re really excited about the fact that it’s happening in Massachusetts,” Travis Estes, chief operating officer at Abode, told Canary Media. The fact that Airbnb chose to launch here…just really speaks volumes to the amazing landscape of utility-sponsored incentives to help hosts.”

Flow charts showing how Airbnb hosts can get an additional $2,500 in rebates for energy efficiency projects.
Airbnb aims to make it cheaper and easier for its participating hosts to undertake home energy upgrades (red flow chart) than it would be for them to make these improvements on their own (gray flow chart). (Abode Energy Management)

We’re already seeing hosts signing up and scheduling their [home-energy] assessments,” Estes said. Abode anticipates serving some 100 hosts in the initial phase of the program. Hosts have until May 31 to sign up.

Though this program is operating only in Massachusetts now, Airbnb could roll out similar offerings in other states down the line. We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm from our hosts,” said Clark Stevens, head of stakeholder initiatives at Airbnb. We’re really focused on learning all we can and making this a success. […] We absolutely want to continue to grow programs like this.”

Alison F. Takemura is staff writer at Canary Media. She reports on home electrification, building decarbonization strategies and the clean energy workforce.