McClaughry: Electric heat and frozen pipes

By John McClaughry

I recently got an email from a former Vermonter, an engineer, whose career has been largely in building systems. He wrote,

Now that the Vermont Legislature has passed the Affordable Heat Act, your liquid fuels costs will [In 2025] start hitting $9/gal at least for heating oil and diesel, so I predict that there will be a new industry of coal smuggling starting up.

I have an old chum living in Metro Montreal. Some years back an ice storm took down 17 miles of high-tension lines bringing power in from Churchill Falls. It took several weeks to rebuild the towers and string the wire, in the harsh winter; the wire went down in the far North and everything had to be done by helicopter at 25 below zero. It was no surprise that his water pipes froze and broke and his house suffered tens of thousands of dollars of damages, along with thousands of other houses in Montreal.

What these Vermont legislators cannot grasp is that relying on electric heat is just not feasible in a Vermont winter. It might work in New Mexico, but even there you see these power failures that cripple the society. It’s amazing that otherwise intelligent people cannot grasp this fundamental.  No heat equals burst water pipes. My chum installed a generator with an independent fuel supply to last for three weeks, so never again for him.

Think on that.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

6 thoughts on “McClaughry: Electric heat and frozen pipes

  1. As a liberal I want to join my conservative Vermonters in their contempt for this “study”. As a builder -for 46 years with several formal advanced degrees- where are they going to get all these tradesmen ?Our school systems have pushed for ” higher education” and the trades were looked down on. You don’t find young men or women in the trades. Have you ever tried to find an electrician? Good luck These units take 220 and in older homes there is no room in the panel or the panel is already substandard which becomes a real mess and could lead to fire. There is also going to be a problem with mobil homes as to how they are going to deal with those electric systems- you could very well have two meters to make that work. Then there is the issue of locating these heat pumps in old homes that could require carpenters as well. It seems as though every storm brings a power outage and until the grid is newer and underground you are going have freezing citizens which means they are all going to need propane –which is what we have and that bill ran us 1000 dollars a month until we got the wood insert in this 1850 farm house that lacks insulation. So I shut down building and attacked my new purchase. Not many people can afford to redo vintage homes so if those legislatures really cared instead of doing warm and fuzzy fixes they would put money into cheaper upgrades like honeycomb blinds for windows and pump houses with fiberglass because shredded up newspapers do not work well they settle over time creating voids and even with additives they burn. So I am with the Governor –stop punishing the poor.

  2. Now, first off, I’m NOT for this electric heat stuff. Especially heat pumps which shouldn’t even be promoted in Vermont when it requires a backup heating system. Buying one heating system is expensive let alone two heating systems! And, if one is on a fixed income and does NOT have to file tax returns, the tax credits don’t help at all. But, the people in Canada without power for days and days….well, my furnace (oil) requires electricity as well. I’m pretty sure that a propane furnace requires electricity as well. I know my propane water heater still runs but because of NO electricity, it does me no good. So what do I need? Solar power with battery back up? Might be the only way to go. I’m not sure. I know in 1981, my parents sold the house I grew up in. It was ALL electric. Because electric heat was the most inexpensive to install (my Dad built the house). The reason for selling? The all electric house’s electric budget payment was considerably higher than the mortgage! I can see that happening here as well………

  3. I had a small wood stove in the basement, until the Canadian ice storm power outage at least 15 years ago.

    It was barely adequate, and produced no hot water, during a power outage, as does my regular furnace.

    Then, I removed the wood stove, and added the 3 propane stoves, two in the basement, one in the living room, to ensure no $20,000 repairs of leaking pipes, during winter, when competent workers are in short supply.

    I installed 3 Mitsubishi heat pumps, each rated 24,000 Btu/h, with 6 heads for heating and cooling, 3 years ago.

    BASED ON MY OWN MEASUREMENTS AND INVOICE DATA, MY ANNUAL ENERGY COST REDUCTION HAS BEEN ABOUT $200/y, because, at low temperatures, when my house needs the most heat, the heat pumps require the most electricity, at more than 21 c/kWh, which impoverishes me, while enriching Canadian GMP.

    My regular Viessmann propane furnace, which requires electricity, costs less per hour than my heat pumps, at cold temperatures

    I turn off my heat pumps at about 10 to 15 F, depending on sun and wind conditions, and turn on my Viessmann

    I am a retired energy systems engineer, too old to lug around 2 to 3 cords of wood, as do my much younger neighbors

  4. I will continue to burn dirty firewood for my heat and will go to New Hampshire to fill my propane tanks that power my refrigerator and stove. A lot of people will be going back to burning wood for heat, how’s that good for air quality? Liberals are inherently stupid.

  5. Let’s also consider these large Victorian manses that have been converted to 6 or even 10 studio apartments. Heat pumps don’t work without a tight envelope/ that means spray foam. Can we even begin to fathom that cost…. with complex bump out additions, multiple roof lines, etc….and one tenant in the bunch opens a window …. Then there’s the electrical upgrades necessary to run 6 heat pumps. Who’s going to pay for a new panel in there’s no room left for more breakers? Or you have an older style panel , or insufficient amperage? The multitude of these costs will get passed to renters. And aren’t these the same legislators who ran with the intent to make housing more affordable? What am I missing? I wrote my legislators, they either didn’t agree with my warnings or don’t care , or think I’m lying. I house a lot of people, yeah it’s business, but they don’t want it to be. What hope is there for Vermont with these economically clueless , radical, petulant, crusaders forcing these new rules?

  6. yup same with EV’s their great in warm climes suck in cold ones. Europe is giving up on them as they can’t support the added electrical use with their current power structure. The bozos here however are stuck on stupid and cover their ears and eyes while chanting global warming global warming..Our infrastructure will not hold up under the load they want to put on it either, but it’s full steam ahead don quixote into the windmill we charge.

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