Group pushes heat pumps as alternative to gas
By Josh O’Gorman
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | August 25,2014
MONTPELIER — Advocacy groups are promoting an efficient heating technology as an alternative to a gas pipeline being built to serve the western part of the state.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont Natural Resources Council have launched a campaign that advocates for the large-scale use of electric-powered cold-weather heat pumps as a “clean” alternative to the natural gas pipeline from Vermont Gas Systems that could stretch across Addison County to Ticonderoga, N.Y., and eventually to Rutland.
The fact that the “Heat Clean” campaign is focusing on Addison and Chittenden counties is no coincidence, said Ben Walsh, clean energy advocate for VPIRG.
“We’ll definitely be doing educational efforts statewide, but we do have a focus on Chittenden and Addison to demonstrate how unnecessary the fracked pipeline is,” Walsh said.
“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial method of extracting natural gas from the ground that some environmental advocates condemn for its effect on the surrounding groundwater.
Also, in a state that has a goal of relying on renewable energy for 90 percent of its needs by 2050, the gas line is a step in the wrong direction, Walsh said.
“When we decided to take a position to oppose the fracked pipeline, we wanted to show there are better alternatives for Vermonters to heat their homes,” Walsh said.
Johanna Miller, energy program director for Vermont Natural Resources Council, echoed Walsh’s thoughts.
“At a time when climate change is threatening our way of life here in Vermont, getting off fossil fuels is not only a moral issue, but it’s also plain common sense,” Miller said.
The groups are working with installers and town energy committees with the goal of installing heat pumps into 100 homes before winter. According to VPIRG, the installations will save Vermonters approximately $2 million, based on the assumption that homeowners will see a savings of 40 percent to 50 percent on their heating bills.
Some homeowners could save far more than that.
In August 2013, Zech Gardner moved into his new home on Elfin Hill Road in Charlotte. The home was built with efficiency in mind, and this past winter, he used a heat pump for his primary heat source.
“It was great,” Gardner said. “The house stayed comfortable and it cost us very little money.”
Gardner said he heated his 2,200-square-foot home for $356 in electricity and 1.25 cords of wood. The winter before, Gardner spent $3,500 in heating oil and burned 3 cords of wood to heat his 1860s-era farm house.
“And this winter, it was much more comfortable,” Gardner said.
For more information, visit vpirg.org/heatclean.