Last year, Americans bought more heat pumps than gas furnaces, a striking split that’s likely to widen in the coming years as consumer awareness and climate regulations foster their uptake.
Heat pumps are already widely used to cool homes across the Southeast, and they’re making inroads in the Northeast and Midwest, where consumers are warming to the concept of using one device for both heating and cooling. But despite their growing appeal, not all consumers are sold on the idea. Some find the technology unfamiliar; others find it unattractive to look at.
Quilt hopes its product can tip the scales. Founded last year by a trio of former Google employees, the startup has been hard at work designing smaller, sleeker and smarter heat pump systems. Today, Quilt is announcing $9 million in a seed round led by Lowercarbon Capital and Gradient Ventures, with participation from Incite Ventures, MCJ Collective, Garage Capital, Climate Capital and Spacecadet.
Many heat pump systems are in fact so-called ductless mini-splits, which are notable for the indoor unit that hangs high on the wall. For the amount of heating and cooling they provide, the indoor units aren’t big, but they’re not sleek either.
“A lot of people, in the purchase process, they get hung up on this idea that they have to put big, ugly white plastic boxes all over their house,” Paul Lambert, co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch+. Many units also use TV-style remotes instead of traditional thermostats, and most aren’t compatible with smart thermostats like Nest. “It feels, in some dimensions, like a step backward.”
The company hopes to follow Nest’s lead and create a smart product that’s defined by better design and consumer friendliness. But where Nest added some smarts to a home’s existing heating and air conditioning system, Quilt hopes to catch consumers as they upgrade the whole thing, leveraging what might be considered an HVAC supercycle. Much like how people upgrade iPhones in waves, the team’s founders think the time is right to dive into the heat pump space.