Making Renewable a Reality

By Elle O’Casey

We will finish our series looking at renewable heating options featuring a conversation with Li Ling Young, senior resident energy consultant for Efficiency Vermont. Join us as we talk more about affordable, practical, and sustainable home heating options.

If a person is looking to eliminate their propane and heating oil use, what are some sustainable sources of home heating they should consider?

A great option is to go with electric heat that uses renewable electricity. This option is considered green and renewable. But heating via electricity can be expensive. Another route to consider is to run things with electricity using your own green power by setting up a renewable energy system in your home. For example, equipping your home with solar panels or solar water heaters would allow you to have a green system.

Traditional wood heating is also another obvious option for people in Vermont looking to go green. Thousands of Vermonters use wood as their primary heat source. For many reasons, this is a good option for Vermonters. We tend not to live in close proximity with one another cutting down on possible air pollution and we’re able to locally-source wood for heating. But wood isn’t an option for everyone. It can be fairly time intensive and requires constant management both to keep the fire going and to keep the stove operable and clean.

Heat pumps are one system that allow you to use electricity at greater than 100% efficiency. They use very little electricity compared to the heat they produce. Heat pumps are a renewable source of electricity that can be very economical and cost competitive as well.

What kind of heat pump would you recommend for homeowners?

Air-source heat pumps are the best option. They can be a realistic option for many different types of homes and for people with a variety of economic backgrounds. In recent years, the new generation of air-source heat pumps, called cold-climate heat pumps, work well in negative temperatures. Even in with winter temperatures dipping into the -20s in Vermont, these pumps don’t get cold enough to stop working.

Before deciding on a heat pump, homeowners want to make sure they evaluate the current state of their home by taking into account its square footage and the quality of insulation present. In some cases, an air-source heat pump won’t be able to heat the whole house and homeowners will want to have another supplemental heating source.

What advice would you offer homeowners interested in installing an air-source heat pump?

Before installation, you will want to look broader than heating sources by conducting a “whole home project”. This three-part process encourages homeowners to do home energy improvements in conjunction with one another. Consider installing a new heat pump along with solar while also determining the investment needed to make weatherization and insulation improvements.

What resources are available to homeowners looking to switch to more sustainable heating sources?

Efficiency Vermont offers a lot of information for how to establish a Zero Energy home. A Zero Energy home is one that either uses no energy or one that generates as much energy as it uses. Efficiency Vermont will soon have a new zero energy program. We are adapting a program used by trade industry contractors who installed solar systems and heat pumps. We’re hoping to roll out this program this summer and offer it to homeowners wanting to make the switch to more sustainable energy options.

In Vermont, there are substantial financial incentives available for people who want to do all three elements simultaneously – meaning install a solar system and a heat pump as well as weatherizing their home.

Your Local Community Resource: Sustainable Woodstock

As you explore energy efficiency and sustainable heating options, Sustainable Woodstock is here to help. Sustainable Woodstock has prepared a comprehensive and concise guide book for completing weatherization work on your home to make it more energy efficient. The booklet covers a step by step process for completing work starting with determining if your home is energy efficient. The booklet also reviews weatherization incentive and assistance provides financing options for all income levels. Contact Sustainable Woodstock to receive a copy of the booklet or you can download it here. Take action today by making your home more energy efficient and start saving money on your energy bills!

There are also a number of meetings and events going on in February that address energy in our communities. Join us Monday, February 13 for an Energy Group meeting at the Norman Williams Public Library at 5:30 or stop by our monthly Green Drinks gathering February 16 from 5:30-7:00pm at the Norman Williams Public Library. This month’s Green Drinks will feature Sustainable Woodstock’s Energy Action Group and their work toward carbon-neutral communities. Join the discussion and learn a few ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

DO JUST ONE THING: Stop by one of Sustainable Woodstock’s Energy Action Group events this month.

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