MONTPELIER — A pilot program that promotes the use of cold-climate heat pumps to save on fuel costs is expanding to Montpelier, according to Green Mountain Power.
Dorothy Schnure, GMP spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview on Monday that GMP has already installed about 140 of the cold-climate pumps, primarily in Rutland. Some people have inquired about the program in other areas of the state and GMP has installed some pumps in a handful of other communities, hoping to build on the initiative statewide.
That’s where Montpelier comes in as the focus of the second major thrust of the pilot program. Green Mountain Power is believed to be the only utility in the country offering rentals on the pumps, which are said to make it easier and more affordable to heat a home.
It costs between $44 and $53 a month to rent the pumps from GMP, Schnure said, and customers can save an average of 25 to 50 percent on their home heating costs using traditional fuels. “Of course that would vary,” she said, based on the home.
GMP announced Monday that Montpelier is now eligible to take advantage of the pilot pump rental program. “Very shortly,” she added, “we will work with town energy committees across the state to roll it out to other communities,” she added.
Schnure said GMP estimates it will install “several hundred customers in Montpelier,” and emphasized that homeowners are pre-qualified based on whether their home is a good fit for a heat pump installation. “Not every home is good for a heat pump,” she said. For example, a home with a lot of smaller rooms may not be ideal.“We help them to figure out if their space would be good” for an air pump, said Schnure.
The pumps, also known as mini-split heat pumps, are ductless heating systems which also provide air conditioning during hot weather. They can be installed in less than a day.
The very first customers to take part in the program launched late last winter were Mark and Sara Borkowski, of Rutland, who had two of the pumps installed in mid March. “We really haven’t been through a winter with the heat pumps, but the air conditioning portion of it is working fabulous,” Mark Borkowski said. “We did have a little bit of cold weather towards the end of March, so I did get to use them a little bit.”
GMP on Monday announced it was bringing the cold-climate heat pumps to Montpelier to help the capital city toward its goal of becoming the first “net zero” capital in the nation.
George Twigg, director of public affairs at Efficiency Vermont said, “Efficiency Vermont is very supportive of this technology. Cold climate heat pumps cost about half of what you would pay for propane, for instance, for what you would pay to heat your home, so it’s a great price savings. It’s also environmentally friendly. ... So from both a price perspective and an environmental benefit, it’s a great technology. It’s something we have worked with Green Mountain Power for awhile on.”
Twigg said consumers do need to be careful to choose a model that best fits their home and is the most efficient model possible, “to make sure that the right equipment is being put in so that consumers can see the best possible benefit.”
With GMP’s announcement of the pilot program coming to Montpelier, Tim Shea, chairman of the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee, said, “Montpelier is poised to change how we meet our energy needs, and Green Mountain Power’s commitment will help us succeed.”
Another of the city’s partners in its Net Zero Montpelier campaign, Andrea Colnes of the Energy Action Network also weighed in on the heat pump program, stating, “Combined with the City’s new biomass district heating system, cold climate heat pumps will make Montpelier’s heating more efficient and further reduce use of traditional heating oil.”
The average cost to purchase a ductless heat pump system is between $4,000 and $5,000, said Schnure, but the ones rented through the GMP pilot program include maintenance. She said many people who have learned about the pilot program from other areas have looked into buying the pumps themselves, “What we hope to do through this (pilot program) is really increase the adoptions of technologies that lower the use of fossil fuels and save money,” she said.
According to GMP’s website, ductless heat pumps were developed in Japan in the 1970s and have since become a preferred heating and cooling system in Asia and much of Europe.
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