In the name of energy efficiency, HEA pilots heat pump program
Homes on the central Kenai Peninsula are largely kept warm with natural gas in the winter.
But some communities that can’t access natural gas rely on fuel oil or propane. And with prices approaching $7 across Kachemak Bay, that can get expensive.
Andy Lorentz lives in Seldovia and Homer. About eight months ago, he decided to replace his Toyo Stove with a heat pump.
“Mainly because I was curious if the heat pump can compete with an oil heater, like a Toyo, which is common around here,” he said.
Homer Electric Association is trying to incentivize others to make that switch, too.
It just launched a rebate program that will give members $500 credits to install heat pumps. Installers will also get $500 credits.
Heat pumps capture and transfer heat from cold spaces and pump it into warmer ones. For a homeowner, that means capturing heat from outside air and pumping it indoors.
They’re more efficient than other types of heaters and typically save money for people like Lorentz who use oil or propane. That’s the case for some homeowners on the outskirts of Nikiski and Sterling, too.
While homeowners will end up buying more electricity to run those heat pumps, HEA’s David Thomas said they’ll ultimately burn less — and spend less on — fuel.
Heat pump technology has changed a great deal in the last decade. Today, they work efficiently even in cold Alaska temperatures.
Thomas said there are already a few dozen early heat pump adopters on the peninsula — including at the Alaska SeaLife Center. The center has used water from Resurrection Bay to heat its 120,000-square-foot Seward facility since 2016.
“They got some grant funding,” Thomas said. “But it penciled out — particularly in Seward, where they have no natural gas.”
Those cost savings don’t pencil out for all HEA members.
Thomas said people who use natural gas won’t save much if they switch to heat pumps, based on current natural gas prices. At a presentation to the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly Tuesday night, Brentwood Higman with the Resilience and Security Advisory Commission said heat pumps can help conserve natural gas as producers warn they might not have enough supply to fulfill future contracts.
Lorentz, in Seldovia, is trying to measure the energy and cost savings in his own home.
“I’m a bit of an energy nerd, I guess,” he said. “I try to keep detailed data on anything that consumes electricity in a home.”
He said he’s pretty happy with the amount of electricity it consumes so far — especially considering how much he was paying for oil before.
“Even though it’s early, so far my calculation is it translates to about $3.75, $3.85 a gallon,” he said. “So, so far so good."
You can calculate how much you would save in your own home and check out your eligibility for the rebate program at here.