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October 30, 2007


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You might want to investigate a high-efficiency heat pump combined with a gas furnace that operates only on very cold days when heat pumps become inefficient. For my home, the heating and cooling savings are significant and the initial costs are much lower.

We use one of these at our home. It was the best investment, outside of our solar panels, we could have ever made. Right now, the payback will will be in about 10-12 years. But thats assuming energy prices stay flat, which is obviously not going to occur.

They were installing these on Dirty Jobs last night for new home construction - of course Mike got blasted with a ton of mud, but it was interesting to see how they installed them.

Interesting...never heard about it before. I don't know anyone who has solar panels either. I'm thinking most of these houses must be located out in the countryside or somewhere in the midwest..

MBB --

The one I saw was in Michigan.

I have one and love it. Cost about $15K to install 3 years ago. That included 5 wells for the water pipes, so it would never cost that much to repair/replace. My highest electric bill was $180, and that was during the summer. Typically it's about $140 every month. My house is 3200 sq/ft and is all electric, so those bills include hot water, dryer, etc. I figure my pay back to be 7 years or so. Also - I don't use any set back at night or when we're at work, and we keep the house at 71 degrees in the winter. We're in Northern Ohio so it gets quite cold. Everyone else has their furnaces set to 65 degrees and they're still getting $350/month heating bills.

The first I ever read about it was a piece by Malcolm Gladwell. He raises some good points both pro and con:

A standard electric heat pump (air conditioner with reversing capability) is still more efficient than gas, at a much smaller cost. The dual-fuel setup (gas furnace plus standard heat pump) that was mentioned above doesn't cost much more than a standard furnace/air-conditioner setup.

That said, I live in an area of the country with extremely low electricity prices, and I have an all-electric setup. If the heat pump can't keep up, the less-efficient (but more powerful) electric heating strips kick in.

We installed a closed-loop geothermal unit in 2005 in Pennsylvania. Cost: about $14,500. 1st year savings were about $2,800 over our old oil furnace at the $2.29 per gallon price oil was when we got it up & running. It should pay for itself in 5.17 years. Our unit has a desuperheater that removes the heat from the house in the summertime and heats our hot water with it - the water heater is completely off all summer. We love it. The systems also are supposed to last longer than conventional oil, gas systems, etc. The warranty is for 25 years, but 50 years, they say, is not atypical. Wish more people would explore it as a way to reduce dependence on oil & non-renewable resources.

Recently as part of the stimulus package a 30% federal tax credit for installation of these systems was put in place. That would cut the payback period substantially.

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