July 19, 2024
Quilt rides heat pump heat wave with hefty $33M Series A | TechCrunch

Heat pumps are having a bit of a moment. They outsold gas furnaces for the second year running, and homeowners who install them are eligible for thousands in incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act. But they’re not growing quite as fast as they perhaps could be. Getting consumers to adopt new technology isn’t always easy, especially when it’s something as fundamental as heating and cooling.

Consumer hesitancy has been on the top of Paul Lambert’s mind as he navigates bringing Quilt’s new heat pump to market.

“No matter where someone is coming from today, what situation they’re in, we want them to feel like they’re upgrading,” Lambert, co-founder and CEO of the startup, told TechCrunch.

Heat pumps are just different enough from existing heating and air conditioning setups to give many consumers pause. Some of it is the design: The most common installations use mini-splits on the inside of the house, which are basically big plastic appliances that hang high on the wall. Not exactly something you might proudly show off to your friends.

Quilt says its heat pump will address those concerns, promising a sleeker design that can be installed in more places around a room than competitors’ offerings. The company has only released a teaser image so far. It looks promising, but we’ll have to wait until it unveils the finished product on May 15 to pass final judgment. The company engineered the core of the system in-house, though it’s working with a manufacturing partner to produce the units.

Design isn’t the only challenge facing traditional heat pumps. Many customers have been turned off by the way they operate. In most homes, a single mini-split (known as a “head”) handles both heating and cooling for a single room. Each head gets its own thermostat or remote, which means if someone wants to adjust the temperature for the whole house, they need to visit every room.

Instead, Quilt has centralized the controls for its system. Each room still gets a head, which also has a way of sensing the temperature, but users only need one physical control to adjust set points throughout their home. As an alternative, they can also use Quilt’s app.

“If you have that thermostat in your bedroom and you want to make sure you turned off the living room or you want to change the temperature in the children’s room or whatever, you just swipe over to that room and do it from the thermostat,” Lambert said. If tweaking individual rooms isn’t your cup of tea, “you can also set a temperature for the entire house from the thermostat.”

Quilt’s control setup hints at a level of integration that most consumer heat pumps don’t offer.

“It’s kind of like a mesh network for Wi-Fi, where they’re all working together to heat and cool the house,” Matt Knoll, co-founder and CTO, told TechCrunch. “But then they have all the control in each space, too.”

In addition to the usual thermostat, each Quilt head has a millimeter-wave occupancy sensor. Most heat pumps include passive infrared sensors, which tend to send false vacancy signals when someone isn’t moving, like when they’re watching TV or sleeping. Quilt’s sensor doesn’t suffer from that problem. The company’s software uses data from these sensors to map the room to determine when people are present, but Lambert points out that it doesn’t create an actual image.

“We’re not putting a camera in anyone’s homes. These are just signals on a graph that when interpreted just says there’s a person here or there isn’t,” he said. “It gives us a lot of confidence around when rooms are empty or not, which means we can not waste energy heating and cooling empty rooms.”

In anticipation of its forthcoming product introduction, Quilt has raised a $33 million Series A round led by Energy Impact Partners and Galvanize Climate Solutions with participation by Garage Capital, Gradient Ventures, Incite Ventures, MCJ Collective, Lowercarbon Capital, and “Property Brother” Drew Scott. It’s a hefty raise given that it announced a $9 million seed round less than a year ago.

The startup plans to use the fresh capital to expand its marketing efforts and installer capacity. Quilt’s heat pumps will roll out in a few regions initially before expanding further. “It’s kind of like we’ve built this core R&D organization, now we’re turning into a real company,” Lambert said.

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