This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.
Dear Vermont Legislature,
Last year when you passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) over the Governor’s veto, you thought that we needed higher prices for fossil fuels to save the planet. After all, home heating oil was only $2.77/gallon then and people weren’t hurrying to buy air-source heat pumps. Now, this week, home heating oil is $4.81/gallon. Shouldn’t you declare “mission accomplished” and try to protect Vermonters from the further price increases which are likely to come?
You seem to be going in the wrong direction. Last week the House gave preliminary approval to the “Clean Heat Standard,” legislation which, no matter what else it does, deliberately raises the cost of delivering heating oil and propane to Vermonters. Don’t you think a near doubling of prices in a year is enough? Are the heat pumps you want people to install so inefficient that a doubling of fuel oil prices won’t result in their adoption?
Part of your prescription for reducing Vermont’s carbon footprint is continued subsidies for electric cars. Over that last year, the average price of gasoline here has gone from $2.72 to $4.34/gallon. Isn’t that incentive enough? Apparently, it is because electric cars are driving off the lot faster than dealers can replenish them. The incentives paid by Vermont utilities for buying electric cars are now counter-productive to the goal of getting people to switch from fossil fuel to electricity because, since they are actually paid by electric ratepayers, they increase the cost of electricity. BTW, the price of natural gas which generates 53% of the electricity here in New England has gone up 93% in the past year. We will soon see that reflected in much higher electric rates. Are you sure you want to drive those rates even higher with unneeded subsidies?
In your defense, the world has changed very fast. Even if all the assumptions you used when you passed the GWSA were correct then, the world has changed in ways few of us imagined. Turns out that printing too much government money actually does lead to inflation. Turns out that discouraging U.S. fossil fuel production actually leads to less energy availability. You certainly can’t be blamed for the effects of Putin’s war and the effect on world fuel prices of Europe’s over-dependence on Russia as a supplier.
Inflation, low US fossil-fuel production, and this terrible war are all facts now. Please take them into account — starting now. Stop work on GWSA at least until the fog of war is cleared. Look at the effect of already higher fossil fuel prices on Vermonters and consider very carefully whether those prices already provide the incentives you were looking for to switch from these fuels that. The world is changing at an alarming rate. We need a People’s Legislature which sees the world as it is and is willing to change as quickly as the world turns.
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HEAT PUMPS ARE MONEY LOSERS IN MY VERMONT HOUSE, AS THEY ARE IN ALMOST ALL NEW ENGLAND HOUSES
Any experienced energy systems engineer can readily calculate the hourly cost of operating heat pumps and propane furnaces.
The HP operating cost per hour would become greater than of an efficient propane furnace, because HPs would become increasingly less efficient with decreasing temperatures. See table 3
Energy Cost Reduction Due to HPs is Minimal
– HP electricity consumption was from my electric bills
– Vermont electricity prices, including taxes, fees and surcharges, are about 20 c/kWh.
– My HPs provide space heat to 2,300 sq ft, about the same area as an average Vermont house
– Two small propane heaters provide space heat to my 1,300 sq ft basement
– I operate my HPs at temperatures of 15F to 20F, or greater; less $/h than propane
– I operate my wall-hung propane heater at temperatures of 15F to 20F, or less; less $/h than HP
– My average HP coefficient of performance, COP, was 2.64
– My HPs required 2,489 kWh to displace 35% of my fuel.
– My HPs would require 8,997 kWh, to replace 100% of my fuel.
– The average Vermont house COP is about 3.34, because the HPs typically operate at about 28F to 35F and above
– The average Vermont house requires 2,085 kWh to displace 27.6% of its fuel, per VT-DPS/CADMUS survey. See URL
Before HPs: I used 100 gal for domestic hot water + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 850 gal for Viessmann furnace, for a total propane of 1,200 gal/y
After HPs: I used 100 gal for DHW + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 550 gal for Viessmann furnace + 2,489 kWh of electricity.
My propane cost reduction for space heating was 850 – 550 = 300 gallon/y, at a cost of 2.339/gal = $702/y
My displaced fuel was 100 x (1 – 550/850) = 35%, which is better than the Vermont average of 27.6%
My purchased electricity cost increase was 2,489 kWh x 20 c/kWh = $498/y
My energy cost savings due to the HPs were 702 – 498 = $204/y, on an investment of $24,000!!
Amortizing Heat Pumps
Amortizing the $24,000 turnkey capital cost at 3.5%/y for 15 years costs about $2,059/y.
This is in addition to the amortizing of my existing propane system. I am losing money.
Other Annual Costs
There likely would be service calls and parts for the HP system, as the years go by.
This is in addition to the annual service calls and parts for my existing propane system. I am losing more money.
Energy Savings of Propane versus HPs
Site Energy Basis: RE folks claim there would be a major energy reduction, due to using HPs. They compare the thermal Btus of 300 gallon of propane x 84,250 Btu/gal = 25,275,000 Btu vs the electrical Btus of 2,489 kWh of electricity x 3,412 Btu/kWh = 8,492,469 Btu.
However, that comparison would equate thermal Btus with electrical Btus, which all engineers know is an absolute no-no.
A-to-Z Energy Basis: A proper comparison would be thermal Btus of propane vs thermal Btus fed to power plants, i.e., 25,275,000 Btu vs 23,312,490 Btu, i.e., a minor energy reduction. See table 1A
Almost all RE folks involved with the GWSA claim energy reductions from HPs.
They likely do not know how to compose table 1A
However, they mandate Vermonters what to do, to save the world from Climate Change
This is a case of the blind leading the gullible
HEAT PUMPS ARE MONEY LOSERS IN MY VERMONT HOUSE, AS THEY ARE IN ALMOST ALL NEW ENGLAND HOUSES
Vermont “Electrify-Everything” Goals Will Cost $Billions and Will Reduce Little CO2
The Vermont state government wants to electrify-everything (heat pumps, electric cars, and transit and school buses, no matter the:
1) Very high turnkey capital cost,
2) Very meager energy cost savings
3) Very meager CO2 reductions, on an A-to-Z, lifetime basis.
VT-DPS Survey of Vermont Heat Pumps
VT-DPS commissioned CADMUS to perform a survey of Vermont heat pumps, after numerous complaints from HP users regarding: 1) high electric bills and 2) minimal annual savings
The average energy cost savings regarding HPs was about $200/HP, as proven by the CADMUS survey report of operating data of 77 existing HP installations.
Those meager energy savings would be more than offset by the annual amortizing cost of $4,500/HP at 3.5%/y for 15 years, plus any annual maintenance costs, and parts and labor costs. HPs are money losers for Vermonters. See URLs
The result of Vermont’s HP saga been:
1) Lucrative benefits to the Efficiency-Vermont-Approved HP installers
2) Lucrative benefits to Canadian-owned GMP, which sells oodles more high-priced electricity.
3) Everyone else getting royally screwed; an example of “fighting” climate change, a la Don-Quixote tilting at wind mills.
My Experience with Heat Pumps in my Well-Insulated, Well-Sealed House
I installed three heat pumps by Mitsubishi, rated 24,000 Btu/h at 47F, Model MXZ-2C24NAHZ2, each with 2 heads, each with remote control; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms.
The HPs have DC variable-speed, motor-driven compressors and fans, which improves the efficiency of low-temperature operation.
The HPs last about 15 years. Turnkey capital cost was $24,000. GMP, the electric utility, provided a $2,400 subsidy.
My house has a wall-hung, efficient, propane furnace to provide: 1) space heating, and 2) domestic hot water, year-round.
The basement has a near-steady temperature throughout the year, because it has 2” of blueboard, R-10, on the outside of the concrete foundation and under the basement slab; the thermal storage of the concrete acts as a temperature stabilizer, which has saved me many thousands of space heating dollars over 35 years.
Winter Operation: Downstairs heads are used for space heating during winter. Upstairs heads are always off during winter.
If the sun is shining, my south-facing house warms up, and the HPs can be turned off by about 10 AM. They are turned on again around 4 to 5 PM
The basement has two small propane heaters to provide space heat to my 1,300 sq ft basement during winter; that heat rises to warm up the first floor. The heaters require no electricity, which is beneficial during a power outage.
Summer Operation: The downstairs and upstairs heads are used for space cooling during hot days in summer
Hourly Operating Cost of HPs Versus Efficient Propane Furnaces
Cold Weather Test: On 22 January, 2022, the temperature was -20F at my house. As a test, I operated my kitchen heat pump. After about 15 minutes, there was lukewarm air coming from the wall-mounted unit, but it was much less warm, than it would be at, say 15F. That lukewarm air did not heat my kitchen from 6 AM to 9 AM, so I turned off the HP and turned on my wall-hung, propane heater.
Conclusion: 1) The name cold-climate HP is merely an advertising gimmick, and 2) HPs are economic:
1) Down to about 15F to 20F in my well-sealed, well-insulated house, depending on wind and sun conditions
2) Down to about 28F to 35F in average Vermont houses, which are energy hogs, by modern standards
Burning Wood or Wood Pellets
If you have a wood stove or pellet stove, by all means use it, because it is the lowest-cost way to space heat houses, including Vermont energy-hog houses.
Be aware, the exhaust of woodstoves has mostly submicron particles (less than one millionth of a meter), that are most harmful to health, especially to: 1) people with heart and lung diseases, and 2) infants and children
A wood-burning open fireplace has negative efficiency, i.e., is sucks more heat out of a space, than it adds heat to a space. Do not use it at temperatures less than 35F.
These URLs are provided for information:
Well said Tom Evslin!
Too bad there is a good chance no one up there on the High hill even listens to the lowly Vermonter.
Or even reads the letters written here.. You would think if they did listen to their constituents more often they might see how very expensive it is to live in Vermont. They might even try to think of ways to make it a little easier to live here instead of coming up with one expensive mandate after another,year after year!!
No Jeanne they don’t care what you think and don’t even care if you know they don’t care.
I know my rep has said he will vote on what we need (in his leftist opinion) and not what
we want in our living thru their more costly votes every day. What we need are way less
leftist enablers who keep voting these dolts in for perpetuity…
When you go to the polls to vote in Vermont today, you are no longer voting for a representative, you’re selecting your master. It is important to learn what their positions and values are because that’s the way they are going to vote. They will listen to fellow legislators, bureaucrats, and lobbyists but not us. There are rare exceptions, but they are very rare.
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