Utilities want you to go ductless

Heating: They tout incentives and savings on monthly bills as reasons to ditch baseboards

JOHN DODGE; Staff writerOctober 20, 2011 

  • REWARD FOR EFFICIENCY

    The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance is offering a $10,000 cash prize to a homeowner who scraps his electric baseboard or wall heaters for a ductless heat pump. For more information about the project, visit www.goingductless.com.

Utilities in the Pacific Northwest are using cash incentives to encourage homeowners with aging, inefficient baseboard and wall-mounted heaters to replace them with ductless heating and cooling systems.

Ductless systems can reduce homeowner heating bills by 25 percent to 50 percent, saving the region about 200 megawatts of electricity per year, enough to power more than 150,000 homes, according to the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a nonprofit group that works with utilities to promote energy efficient products and services.

“Baseboards from the 1970s need to go the way of the polyester leisure suit in favor of more efficient technologies that protect our region’s environment, save energy and save homeowners money on their heating bill,” said Alexis Allan, residential operations manager for the Portland-based The Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Mason County residents Dan and Nancy Lysne scrapped the wall heater in their split level, remodeled home on Phillips Lake this week in favor of the newer technology, which also includes a wall-mounted component that distributes heated air to their downstairs family room, home office and kitchen.

“The heating was very inefficient the way it was,” Lysne said.

He said the couple’s $4,300 investment in their new heating system should be recouped in about two years, thanks to a $1,500 rebate from Mason County Public Utility District No. 3, a $300 federal tax credit and reduced monthly heating bills.

The ductless heat pumps are not well-known in the residential home heating market, but have been widely used in Asia and Europe since the 1970s and in U.S. commercial buildings since the 1980s. The energy alliance launched a pilot project in 2008 to train electrical contractors on how to install them.

Since then, nearly 12,000 units have been installed in the Northwest, saving enough electricity to power 3,600 homes.

Roger Crowe of Comfort Heating & Cooling in Shelton said his company has installed about 100 of the systems in the South Sound area. Feedback from his customers suggests they are saving about 40 percent on their heating bills.

“We are trying to make it a big part of our business,” Crowe said of the little-known option available to owners of older, electrically heated homes.

Nancy Lysne said she won’t miss the old wall heater, which was inefficient and noisy.

“These new systems are about as quiet as a library,” Comfort installer Jim Collins said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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