FACT CHECKING REGARDING HEAT PUMPS IN VERMONT AND MAINE

Consumers should know the facts when it comes to buying a Cold Climate Heat Pump (ccHP) and whether it will help save money heating their house. See Appendix and URL.

http://vermontfuel.com/heatpump/

 

Using ccHPs in Vermont

 

An electric ccHP works best in a one-story house with an open floor plan, i.e., kitchen/living/dining one big room. They do not heat the whole house, only the room where an appliance is located.

 

In a typical Vermont house, a ccHP will displace some fuel oil, but you still need a fuel oil (or propane or wood) central heating system operating in the winter to ensure pipes do not freeze.

 

- When pipes freeze up, they can crack and cause significant damage. One freeze up with broken water and/or heat pipes can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

- Whether the fuel oil displacement “saves money” depends on the efficiency of the central heating system, the fuel price electricity price and insulation and sealing of the house.

NOTE: The net effect of a regressive carbon tax on heating fuels is to artificially increase the heat pump energy savings, i.e., artificially shift the economics in favor of heat pumps for state policy reasons.

Burlington Electric Department of Vermont Severely Curtailed Its Heat Pump Program

 

According to BED, Efficiency Vermont's estimated savings were grossly exaggerated. "BED is scaling back its 2018 – 2020 projections of HPs installed in the City of Burlington, VT, due to the results of a 2017 VT DPS evaluation report. See URL.

https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/Energy_Efficiency/Reports/Evaluation%20of%20Cold%20Climate%20Heat%20Pumps%20in%20Vermont.pdf

 

The VT-DPS evaluation report indicates:

 

- The owners of the surveyed HPs had average savings of about $200/heat pump per year

- The owners displaced, on average, only about 34% of their annual fuel oil, i.e., the other 66% of fuel oil was supplied by the traditional heating system.

 

The VT-DPS report did not mention other HP financial impacts on owners, such as:

 

- Annual loan payments to utilities, such as GMP. See table 1 and Appendix for details.

- Annual maintenance contract fees, at about $150 per year, no parts

- Cost for unscheduled outages, at about $150 per call, no parts

- Amortizing the $5000 heat pump at 5% for 15 years requiring annual payments of $474 per year

- Amortizing the $10000 traditional back-up system a 5% for 20 years requiring annual payments of  $792 per year

 

Instead of installing hundreds of HPs during the 2019, 2020, 2021 period, BED is now anticipating, i.e., making money available in its budget, to provide incentives for no more than 15 HPs during that period.

 

Those few HPs likely would be in pre-selected, highly insulated/highly sealed houses to ensure 85 to 100 percent of displacement of fuel oil. Google Burlington Electric 2018 Tier 3 Plan, which BED is required to submit the VT-Public Utilities Commission every three years. The Plan describes the BED HP intentions for that period.

 

NOTE: The BED intentions barely were mentioned by the VT mass media, because it  does not bode well for the VT Comprehensive Energy Plan goal of 35000 HPs by 2025. That goal was based not on any analysis, but likely on a number picked out of a hat by bureaucrats. See Appendix.

Primary Reason for ccHPs

 

A majority of Vermont houses are heated with hot water, thus lacking the ductwork necessary for a central air conditioning system. In fact, according to the 2016 survey conducted by the UVM Center for Rural Studies, less than 10% of consumers in Vermont purchase a ccHP specifically for heat. They want it for air conditioning.

NOTE: They could have bought a $600, floor-mounted AC unit from Home Depot, instead of a $5000 ccHP from an Efficiency Vermont-approved contractor.

 

Consumers who use a ccHP for heating often complain it does not provide the same warmth and comfort as a central heating system.

 

Heat pumps circulate air that feels relatively cool. Unlike a furnace, which provides heat for a few minutes and then turns off, ccHPs run longer at cooler temperatures.

If the air temperature from the ccHP is below skin temperature, that air will feel cool, especially when there is a velocity of air across the body. Consumers report feeling cool and uncomfortable, if the air temperature from the ccHP is below skin temperature.

This is reflected in research using the U.S. Department of Energy simulation tools (BeOpt and EnergyPlus) to quantify comfort level associated with various heating sources.  

 

Air from ccHPs is colder than 100F 65% of the time. The resulting discomfort may cause consumers to rely more on their central heating system.

 

A study released by the Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings (CARB) further addressed the uncertainties about the capacity and efficiency of ccHPs in cold weather (Exh. VFDA-7).

 

According to the report, “these uncertainties could lead to skepticism among owners; poor energy savings estimates; sub-optimal system selection by HVAC contractors; and inconsistent energy modeling.”

The report goes onto to state, "the results from this monitoring effort show a wide range of performance with many systems performing below expectations. More work is needed to better assess energy consumption and capacities of these systems in different climates and house configurations."

Example in Maine: Energy Cost Savings No ccHP and With ccHP

Using data from the Emera Maine Heat Pump Pilot Program, conducted by EMI Consulting, it appears the installation of a ccHP resulted energy cost savings as shown in table 1.  

Emera used $3.90/gal in 2014, but the 2018 price is about $2.70/gal, which is used in table 1. See table 2-1 in URL

http://www.emeramaine.com/media/41789/emera-maine-heat-pump-pilot-f...

However, if an owner gets a loan from the utility, a typical payment would be about $660/y.

See Appendix of this URL

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-baseless-claims...

NOTE: With a carbon tax on fuel oil the scale can be tipped in favor of ccHPs.

Table 1

No ccHP

With ccHP

Fuel oil price, $/gallon

2.70

2.70

Electricity price, $/kWh

0.16

Fuel oil, gal/y

660

421

Fuel oil displaced by ccHP, gal/y

239

Fuel oil cost, $/y

1782

1137

Electricity consumed, kWh/y

2387

Electricity cost, $/y

382

Total energy cost, $/y

1782

1519

Energy cost saving, $/y

263

.

Utility loan, $/y

660

Amortize back-up system, $/y*

792

792

Total cost, $/y

2574

2971

LOSS, $/y

397

.

Not Counted

Maintenance contract, ccHP, no parts, $/y

150

Outage calls, ccHP, no parts, $/call

150

Maintenance contract, back-up, no parts, $/y

250

250

Outage calls, back-up, no parts, $/call

150

150

* Amortize $10,000 back-up system at 5% for 20 y

Factors Other Than Energy Prices?

 

The United States Department of Energy Buildings Technology Program made a study in a laboratory of two popular ccHPs:

- Fujitsu 12 RLS

- Mitsubishi FE12pA

 

In their report, they determined the coefficient of performance for two popular models of ccHPs. The results are expressed in the graph in this URL.

http://vermontfuel.com/heatpump/

 

As the outdoor temperature decreases so does the efficiency of the ccHP.

This is the opposite of the efficiency of fuel oil and propane central heating systems. As it gets colder their idle losses decrease and their efficiencies increase. Oil and propane systems become more efficient, the colder it gets.

 

Example in Maine: Heating a House Using a ccHP

Maine's ccHP Subsidy Program

Maine has provided generous subsidies to ccHPs, which resulted in 25,700 ccHPs installed during the past 5 years.

Efficiency Maine offers rebates of $500 to $750 per qualifying ccHP.

Total rebates extorted from ratepayers and taxpayers:

Subsidy @ $500/ccHP = 25,700 units x $500 = $13,325,000

Subsidy @ $750/ccHP = 25,700 units x $750 = $19,275,000

NOTE: Whereas owners feel good about getting a discount due to the subsidy, in reality, installers merely increase their prices to capture nearly the entire subsidy. The same is true for PV systems.

 

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) Study of ccHP in Maine

The Model: The model calculates the hour-by-hour energy consumption, Btu, by the heat pump and back-up system, to determine consumption for any period (hour, day, month, year), based on:

 

- Heat pump performance data versus temperature,

- Back-up system performance data versus temperature

- Hourly weather data

- Hourly solar heat gain

- Hourly occupancy data

http://ma-eeac.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/NORA-Minisplit-Repo...

 

The House: A ranch style house, 2500 sq ft, located in Portland, ME, was modeled to develop a typical residential load profile for this location. It has typical "code" construction, standard 2 x 4 stud walls, a basement, and a peak roof, R-30. Set point is constant at 70 F for heating, i.e., no night setback. A family of 4 is assumed and domestic hot water use is 63.4 gal/day, which is the national average currently used in the DOE water heater test procedure. See table 2  

 

Table 2/Location

Portland, ME

Size, ft2

2,500

Family Size

4

Stories

1

Envelop

Code compliant

DHW use, gal/d

64.3

Setback, F

70/70

Building Type

Residential

The study compared a fuel oil, non-condensing furnace (that also heats domestic hot water) with a Two-Head, Mini-Split, 38,000 Btu ccHP. Fuel oil price $2.75/gal. Electricity price $0.155/kWh

 

The three assessed operating modes of operation are:

 

Base: Oil-fired boiler heats the house

Mode 2: Oil-fired boiler heats the house in December, January and February and the ccHP all other times

Mode 3: ccHP heats the house and when the ccHP can no longer sufficiently heat the house (it is maxed out), the fuel oil back-up system supplements the heating (both systems are run at the same time). Usually this is accomplished by setting the ccHP thermostats at a higher temperature that the back-up system.

 

NOTE: In Mode 3, the ccHP was inefficiently operated to maximum capacity on cold days, i.e., having low COP* 

 

- That likely would displace the most gallons of fuel oil (as shown in table 3), but would require much more electricity.

- That likely was not the most economical way to operate, because (as was found in the other examples of hourly operating costs), at 0F and below, it is better economics to use ONLY the fuel oil back-up system. See table 3

 

COP = delivered heat by ccHP (as Btu/h) / electricity supplied to ccHP (as Btu/h)

NOTE: With a carbon tax on fuel oil the scale can be tipped in favor of ccHPs.

 

Table 3

Base

Mode 1

Mode 2

Fuel oil price, $/gallon

2.75

2.75

2.75

Electricity price, $/kWh

0.155

0.155

0.155

Fuel oil, gal/y

847

627

166

Fuel oil displaced by ccHP, gal/y

0

220

681

Fuel oil cost, $/y

2329

1724

457

Electricity consumed, kWh/y

2860

10262

Electricity cost, $/y

443

1591

Total energy   cost, $/y

2329

2168

2047

Energy cost saving, $/y

162

282

Utility loan, $/y

660

660

Amortize back-up system, $/y*

792

792

792

Total cost, $/y

3121

3620

3499

LOSS, $/y

498

378

.

Not Counted

Maintenance contract, ccHP, no parts, $/y

150

150

Outage calls, ccHP, no parts, $/call

150

150

Maintenance contract, back-up, no parts, $/y

250

250

250

Outage calls, back-up, no parts, $/call

150

150

150

BNL found:

 

- The ccHP output, Btu/h, decreased from: 100% at 60F; 45% at 0F; 35% at -10F

- The ccHP COP decreased from: 3.0 at 48F; 2.5 at 30F; 1.7 at 0F; 1.1 at -20F

 

According to the graph:

 

- The peak energy inputto the furnace was about 85000 Btu/h, as fuel oil.

- In Mode 2, the ccHP was operated from about the end of March to the end of November; the red areas on the graph

- The fuel oil system was operated during winter months; the blue areas of the graph. See graph in this URL

http://vermontfuel.com/heatpump/

 

The peak heat demand of the house was 85000 x 128488, LHV/138490, HHV x 0.85, efficiency = 67032 Btu/h. See notes and graph in this URL

http://vermontfuel.com/heatpump/

 

According to the graph, the peak energy input to the ccHP was about 81000 Btu/h.

 

According to the graph, the COP appears to be about 1.0, equivalent to electric heating, during peak heat demand.

See graph in this URL

http://vermontfuel.com/heatpump/

 

NOTE: Some of the higher-heating-value Btus is used to create water vapor during combustion. Only the lower-heating-value Btus is used to provide heat to the house.

 

NOTE: The newer Maine house (67032 Btu/h at -20F for 2500 sq ft) has significantly better insulation and sealing compared to the older “Vermont mix” house (64000 Btu/h at -20F for 2000 sq ft). See table 4 and URL.

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-baseless-claims...

 

NOTE: About 10.9% of the Btus of the electricity input to the ccHP is lost due to standby loss and defrost loss of the ccHP. See URL

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-baseless-claims...

 

Table 4

Area

Heat demand

sq ft

Btu/h at -20F

Newer Maine house

2500

67032

Vermont mix house

2000

64000

Vermont mix house, pro-rated upwards

2500

83790

APPENDIX 1

The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, projects to install about 35,000 cold-climate heat pumps, ccHPs, by 2025 to begin the transformation of about 63% of building heating to renewable electricity by 2050. About 34% would be by biomass (wood burning) and bio liquids, and only about 3% would be by fossil fuels. See page 8 of URL

https://outside.vermont.gov/sov/webservices/Shared%20Documents/2016...

 

As a result, Vermont State government is subsidizing a ccHP program for residential and other buildings, which could not be successful (reducing annual energy costs and CO2eq), unless at least 80% of all Vermont buildings had deep retrofits. This surely was known before the program was started, but RE rah-rah and subsidies got the program going anyway. 

 

It is downright criminal for the state government, GMP, VT-DPS, VPIRG, VEIC, Efficiency Vermont, Efficiency Vermont-approved contractors, etc., to obfuscate the drawbacks of ccHPs and use subsidies (extorted from other ratepayers and taxpayers) to cajole Vermonters to have ccHPs, when it is abundantly clear, the annual energy cost savings are more than wiped out by: 

 

- Annual loan payments to utilities, such as GMP

- Annual cost of amortizing invested capital, at 5%/y for 15 years

- Annual maintenance contract fees, at about $150/y, no parts

- Cost for unscheduled outages, at about $150/call, no parts

 

The heat pumps for houses mainly are cold climate, ductless, mini-split units that have a heating/cooling unit mounted on an indoor wall and a ground-mounted compressor unit adjacent to the building. Heat pumps work best in houses with open floor plans on the downstairs floor, i.e., kitchen/living/dining is one big room. Almost all mini-split heat pumps are imported from Japan and Korea, i.e., adds to US trade deficit and sends money out of Vermont. See URL.

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-baseless-claims...

 

APPENDIX 2

The Vermont Heat Pump Promotion Troika

 

1) GMP: Kristin Carlson, GMP's vice president for strategic and external affairs, said in an email that the utility has now installed 1,125 heat pumps.

 

-GMP arranges for the installation with an Efficiency Vermont-approved contractor.

- The contractor chooses the heat pump brand and model; brands include Daikin, Fujitsu, and Mitsubishi, with outputs ranging from 9,000 Btu/h to 18,000 Btu/h.

- GMP loan at an interest rate is 10.74%/y. That appears to be a usury rate!

- GMP says that payments will range from $49 to $81 per month, depending on the model of heat pump that's installed.

- Maintenance is included; no mention of parts or outage service calls

- That doesn't include the electricity required to run the unit.

- Should a homeowner sell the house before the loan is repaid, GMP says it can offer a buy-out price for the heat pump, or the new owner could pick up the payments.

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/green-building-news/...

Table 4A

Small

Large

Average

ccHP capacity, Btu/h

9000

18000

13500

ccHP turnkey cost, $

 4575

7230

5903

Monthly payment at 10.74% for 15y, $

 49

81

65

Annual payment, $

 588

972

780

Annual Cost Summary

Table 5

No ccHP

With ccHP

Fuel oil price, $/gallon

2.70

2.70

Electricity price, $/kWh

0.16

Fuel oil, gal/y

660

421

Fuel oil displaced by ccHP, gal/y

239

Fuel oil cost, $/y

1782

1137

Electricity consumed, kWh/y

2387

Electricity cost, $/y

382

Total energy   cost, $/y

1782

1519

Energy cost saving, $/y

263

GMP loan, average cost, $/y^

780

Amortize back-up system, $/y*

792

792

Total cost, $/y

2574

3091

LOSS, $/y

517

.

Not Counted

Maintenance contract, ccHP, no parts, $/y

0

Outage calls, ccHP, no parts, $/call

0

Maintenance contract, back-up, no parts, $/y

250

250

Outage calls, back-up, no parts, $/call

150

150

* Amortize $10,000 back-up system at 5% for 20 y

^ GMP loan, average cost = (49 + 81)/2 x 12 = $780/y, includes (unspecified) ccHP maintenance. Does that include ccHP outage calls?

NOTE: With a carbon tax on fuel oil the scale can be tipped in favor of ccHPs.

2) Efficiency Vermont: According to a fact sheet at Efficiency Vermont, a homeowner would save:

 

- $1,842/y by shifting 80% of the heating load away from electric resistance heat to a cold-climate heat pump.

- Propane users would save $1,268/y.

- Fuel oil users would save $865/y.

- The “fact sheet” (fiction sheet?) is no longer accessible!
http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/green-building-news/...

 

3) VPIRG, an RE Lobby: VPIRG, a booster of renewable energy, mostly financed by Vermont RE businesses, estimated the annual savings of a heat pump at $1000 to $1500 on a $3000 household heating bill. It appears, VPIRG grabbed a number out of the air, because it looked good.

 

APPENDIX 3

People Complaining About Less than Promised Savings 

The GMP. VPIRG, Efficiency Vermont Troika made rosy savings claims that had no factual basis, but, as expected, lured people to install heat pumps.

GMP and EV-approved installation contractors made a lot of money.

 

It is likely most heat pumps were installed in houses with average, and less than average, insulation and sealing.

It is likely people complained about less than promised savings to their legislators and to the VT-DPS.

 

After many complaints, VT-DPS performed a survey of actual heat pump installations and their performance.

 

- The DPS study found the seasonal average COP was about 1.2 at -10F, which is dismal, as it would be similar to heating your house with electricity on the coldest days.


- The average saving was $200/heat pump/y, which is grossly less than advertised.

Make sure to read the report. See URL.

http://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/Energy_E...

 

Here is the main conclusion from the report:

  1. Overall dollar savings are impacted by the efficiency of the back‐up fossil fuel system. The higher the efficiency of the back-up system, the smaller the amount of fuel is being displaced by the heat pump.
  2. Houses with poor insulation levels and air leaks will not get as much benefit out of a heat pump, as will highly sealed, well- insulated houses.
  3. It is unlikely a heat pump by itself would be sufficient to heat a typical house, without use of a traditional heating system as a backup on cold days.

 

For the annual savings to be only $200/y, most of the houses had to have poor insulation and sealing. EV and its approved contractors likely did not properly survey those houses and did not give proper warning to those households. They likely were eager to install as many heat pumps as possible.

 

Vermont has very few energy-efficient houses (highly insulate/highly sealed), likely at most 10% of all houses. Only those houses are candidates for heat pumps. The articles in the media describing the benefits of heat pumps in glowing terms usually are regarding those houses.

 

There likely are another 15% of houses that could be upgraded to be energy efficient (“deep retrofits”), at a cost of at least $30,000 each, which likely would make them candidates for heat pumps.

 

The rest of the houses (75%) are “energy hog houses” that are completely unsuitable for heat pumps, because the heat output of the heat pumps would be insufficient for those houses on cold days, say 25 F, and below. It would be too expensive to upgrade those houses for heat pumps.

 

 

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Comment by Dan McKay on December 23, 2018 at 8:21am

 Efficiency Maine offers rebates of $500 to $750 for qualifying heat pumps. Rebates from surcharge on ratepayer bills @ $500 per heat pump = 30,000 units X $500 = $15,000,000

                       @ $750 per heat pump = 30,000 units x $750 = $22,500,000

What is making rates higher, again ?

Comment by Dan McKay on December 23, 2018 at 8:14am

"More than 30,000 high efficiency ductless heat pumps have been installed in Maine homes and businesses over the past five years."

More complaints from Maine residents about high electric usage have emerged in the last five years.

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

******** IF LINKS BELOW DON'T WORK, GOOGLE THEM*********

(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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