MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Money from Vermont's statewide energy efficiency program could be used to install electric heat pumps — and insulation in the houses where they are going — under legislation endorsed Friday by the Vermont Senate.
The program, Efficiency Vermont, traditionally used money raised through a charge on electric bills to help people install more efficient lighting, appliances and business equipment.
In 2008, the Legislature expanded EVT's mission to include thermal efficiency — insulation of buildings to save on heat — but required that funding for that effort come from sources other than the charge on electric bills.
Given preliminary approval on a Senate voice vote, the bill would allow some money from the electric charge to be used for weatherization, in homes that install a new generation of high-efficiency heat pumps that are rapidly increasing in popularity in Vermont.
People who install heat pumps are finding they can cut their heating bills in half over the cost of older technologies and energy sources, including oil and propane furnaces and electric baseboard systems, said Sen. Mark MacDonald, an Orange Democrat and a member of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, who described the legislation to his Senate colleagues.
The heat pumps, essentially reverse refrigeration units that extract heat even from cold outside air, use electricity, too, but far less than traditional electric baseboard systems. They can be reversed in the summer to cool indoor spaces.
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