The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) recently released a new guide to heating and cooling, prepared for the Vermont Public Service Department. If you need to replace your home’s existing central heat or hot water system, are looking for additional space heat, need whole-home or space cooling, or if you’re building a new home, now is the perfect time to invest in a clean, reliable technology. A Vermonter’s Guide to Residential Clean Heating and Cooling is an excellent first step to understanding what clean heating and cooling (CH&C) technologies are, how they work in a home, and where to find incentives and financing.
Vermont is a national leader in energy efficiency. The state’s 2015 Renewable Energy Standard increased the amount of renewables utilities must procure from 55% in 2017 to 75% by 2032. Vermont is well on its way to meeting these targets. the Burlington Electric Coop is already operating on 100% renewable electricity and the state’s electric power supply is 67% renewable.
In addition to its renewable energy goals, Vermont also has greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, set by the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan. These targets include a 40% reduction by 2030 and an 80 to 90% reduction by 2050 in 1990’s GHG levels.
To meet both Vermont’s renewable energy and GHG emissions reduction goals, Vermont needs to address how we heat and cool our homes and buildings. Vermonters spend an average of 25% of their household energy budget on heating costs. Vermonters heat their homes primarily with fossil fuels, and so the thermal sector is the second largest GHG emissions contributor in the state (after the transportation sector. This accounts for nearly 24% of Vermont’s GHG emissions. Furthermore, Vermonters spent over $650 million on imported fossil fuels (in 2017) for residential heating; nearly 70% of each dollar spent on fossil fuel heating leaves the state.
A Vermonter’s Guide to Residential Clean Heating and Cooling informs Vermont homeowners about ways to reduce fossil fuel use, improve home comfort, minimize health risks, and reduce indoor and outdoor air pollutants with CH&C technologies. The guide covers a variety of information to help homeowners understand the advantages of energy efficiency, the benefits of clean heating and cooling technologies, the differences among those technologies, how to choose a contractor, and how to access state incentives and financing.
The technologies reviewed in the guide include advanced wood heating, wood pellet furnaces, wood pellet stoves, ground source heat pumps, cold climate air source heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and solar hot water. Clean heating and cooling technologies such as ground source heat pumps and advanced wood pellet boilers can supply hot water in addition to space heating and cooling. Heat pump water heaters and solar water heaters provide hot water only. The guide stresses home energy efficiency improvements as the first step to improving a home’s energy performance, cleaner indoor air, improved home comfort, and energy savings.
There are multiple benefits associated with clean heating and cooling technologies. Health benefits include less hypertension and heart disease and lowered pulmonary, heart disease, and cancer risks. On the environment and economic side, CH&C technologies reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions while boosting investment in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. They can lower heating costs and contribute to energy resilience and sustainability. And CH&C technologies support the local economy, especially the forest products industry.
Understanding the home’s heating needs, its current distribution system, its insulation, and compatible CH&C technologies is complicated. For this reason, it is imperative that consumers consider working with qualified contractors and installers who can guide them through the process of choosing and installing a CH&C system. A Vermonter’s Guide to Residential Clean Heating and Cooling helps consumers with the process of selecting a contractor and maintaining a CH&C system through clear recommendations for each type of equipment.
The Guide also includes a checklist to help consumers successfully install a clean heating and cooling project. Topics include preliminary steps, purchasing and contracting, pre-installation, and incentives and financing as well as specific considerations for cold climate heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, and advanced wood heating.
Purchasing a heating and cooling system of any kind can be expensive. But switching to a CH&C system can be a cost-effective solution in the right situation. Various rebates, loans, and incentives available for CH&C technologies help reduce the upfront costs of installing a CH&C system. The Guide describes these as well as low-interest public and private financing options and tax and federal incentives.
If you are looking to replace your home heating system, need supplemental heat, or building a new home, check out the Guide at this link: www.bit.ly/VT-Guide-Residential-Clean-Heating-Cooling. More resources are available at the Vermont Renewable Resource Center, http://www.rerc-vt.org/.
Georgena Terry is a research associate at Clean Energy States Alliance.