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Why heat pumps are hot in Vermont this summer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Why heat pumps are hot in Vermont this summer

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COLCHESTER, Vt. -

The flowers are blooming, the wind is just right for sailors and even lawn mowing looks good! It's the dog days of summer in Vermont, but we all know this can't last.

"You have a couple of chilly mornings and that's when everyone starts thinking about the wintertime," said Jake Marin, who manages heating programs for Efficiency Vermont.

Marin says there's a trend that people are plugging into.

"When people think of electric heat, it's kind of a dirty word. They think really expensive, but with heat pumps, the operation is about three times more efficient," he said.

"This is a Mitsubishi heat pump; we've been installing them for about a year," said John Quinney, who runs Energy Co-op of Vermont in Colchester.

The co-op delivers everything from oil to wood pellets to its more than 2,000 members. They're also installing more of these heat pumps into homes.

You only have to go as far as your kitchen to understand how a heat pump works. It's just like your refrigerator. The compressor in the refrigerator turns warm air into cold; the heat pump does the opposite.

It costs about $4,000 to buy and install one, but the savings come later.

Here are the latest comparisons of heating fuel costs:

  • Fuel oil for example is $3.70 a gallon right now.
  • A cord of wood is about $193.
  • And electricity is 15 cents a kilowatt.

But the public service department goes further, calculating relative cost for the same amount of energy. It's listed as price per million BTUs. When you look at that you can see:

  • Fuel oil is about $30.
  • Wood is about $15.
  • Electricity depends on whether you use a heat pump or not. Without a heat pump, you're looking at $44. With one, it's just $18.

"For operating costs, often times moving toward a heat pump can be 30-50 percent less than a traditional oil and propane heating system," Marin said.

Reporter Julie Kelley: Is this really as revolutionary as it sounds?

John Quinney: I think it could be for two reasons. One, because people are paying a lot to heat their home with oil and propane, so they're really looking for a lower cost way of keeping their homes warm. And unlike a wood stove or a pellet stove, they're very convenient. You don't have to haul the fuel for a heat pump. They run off electricity.

While weighing your options is important, at least for a little while longer, we can count on the sun's rays to keep us warm!

Quinney says heat pumps are not for everyone. They work best in open spaces, so if you have a home with lots of small rooms, he says this probably isn't the best option.

The $4,000 price tag on those heat pumps may be out of reach for some people. But the folks at Efficiency Vermont say they're in the process of developing an incentive program for heat pumps which should help cut the initial cost some.

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