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Obstacles to Home Heating Electrification Transitions

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I recently faced a decision point which I suspect many people may reach; to electrify my home heating solution or not. In 2012 I took the plunge and installed an LG heat pump mini-split system, retaining my oil burner as backup, and after 7 years the LG system failed, putting me in the market for a replacement, from a different manufacturer. I contacted some local installers of Mitsubishi systems and received a quote for over $13,000 to replace my failed LG system. Wow – talk about sticker shock. Which brings me to the decision point: should I spend the $13,000+ in this era of dropping 401k’s and the COVID-19 economy to replace my failed heat pump system or continue to use my backup heating source, an oil burning unit, which I’m currently using, and find a lower cost option for air conditioning. Alternatively, move someplace where home heating is not required - wife already squashed this option.

Factors to consider:

  • Home heating oil prices are dropping due to over-supply, now below $2.00/gallon and going down
  • $13,000 in this COVID-19 economy is a major factor
  • The ROI on this $13,000 may never come given the prospects of carbon pricing on electricity, as New York is contemplating, and dropping oil prices, plus an oil burner that may have several more years of useful life on it
  • Knowing how to pick the right installer; the one that will survive the COVID-19 economy and be able to support a new heat pump system through its warranty period. (This was another lesson learned, nobody wants to support and maintain a system installed by someone else – this is a big problem when the original installer tells you they no longer support LG HVAC systems due to their failure rate)
  • My oil burner is reliable and efficient, and the cost of oil is dropping making the economics of keeping oil attractive
  • All I really need is an air conditioning solution. How can I do that economically in this COVID-19 economy?
  • Good old-fashioned air conditioner window units are selling for around $300, and I need two of them for a total of $600, versus $13,000
  • The COVID-19 economy is affecting every decision; perhaps I can revisit this when the economy, and my 401-k improves.
  • I want to be a good citizen of the world and reduce my carbon footprint by eliminating use of fossil fuels for heating, BUT I also need to make a rational financial decision in the COVID-19 economy
  • Final answer: Keep the oil burner, install two window air conditioners for $600 and keep the $13,000 for better days, after COVID-19 is a distant memory

I know, some people will be repulsed by my decision to continue the use of fossil fuels for home heating applications. Sorry, but these are difficult times; perhaps better times are on the horizon when governments will help subsidize the electrification transition of home heating systems and the cost of heat pump systems may drop, becoming more attractive, and the risk of increased electricity prices from carbon pricing no longer looms overhead, only then will I reconsider this decision. But for now, COVID-19 is nudging me to take a risk management approach in all decisions.

Richard Brooks's picture

Thank Richard for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 20, 2020 4:11 pm GMT

I know there will be some people that be repulsed to my decision to continue the use of fossil fuels for home heating applications. Sorry, but these are difficult times; perhaps better times are on the horizon when governments will help subsidize the electrification transition of home heating systems

I don't think repulsion is the proper response, but rather a recognition of the stark realities of the situation. People may want to make the right climate-related personal decisions, but if cost is a hurdle then they simply aren't real solutions yet. That said, I think you're right about government assistance-- and I think you're seeing a good early groundswell about how any stimulus package to come for economic aid during and after the COVID crisis must be done with climate action in mind. Think of the money that could come in and the jobs that could be created with widespread heating electrification in homes across the country??

 

Also reminder for anyone who has questions/thoughts on how COVID-19 is impacting the energy industry-- please check out and participate in our active Community Q&A on the topic! https://energycentral.com/c/pip/energy-central-community-deep-dive-covid19-and-utility-industry%E2%80%94what-are-you

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Mar 20, 2020 9:36 pm GMT

Money money money. Money comes first where ever you are. I suggest rearranging the term feasibility to be Economic-Technical Feasibility. One should select the most economic alternative, then evaluate its engineering soundness. Does this make a difference?

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