Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cold Climate Heat Pumps and Pellet Boilers


Unity College has 100% Maine-made green power, most of our buildings are either brand new, or have recently been retrofitted for energy efficiency, all but a couple of dinosaurs. (We're waiting for the master plan to tell us whether we should keep these, or just knock them down.) You can see the results of the last four-five years of our efficiency drive here, if you have MS Excel. This spreadsheet is also the basis for our reporting to the Maine Governor's Climate Challenge (sheets 4 and 5, for those of you who are interested in climate emissions reporting formats). We have been very successful, so successful we were cited by state government for our hard work. All of these emissions reductions were achieved here, on site, and cost-efficiently. No offsets.

What is left? Heat oil. Diesel, or #2 heat oil, each gallon of which produces 23 pounds of carbon-dioxide equivalent climate pollution. And costs over $3.

How can we eliminate heat oil? We can 1) first insulate all buildings and put in new windows and doors, especially air-lock doors. Insulation is the best bang for your buck, and the best thing to do first, economically speaking. We've already insulated all but our most dinosaur buildings. (Those dogs will have their day, as soon as we know if they're to be kept.) We still need to replace some windows. Once that is done, we should 2) Put in new, computer operated controls. You need well-insulated buildings to have a lot of variance in set temperature, but if you only heat to 55-58 degrees when you're not using the building, you save money and oil, and the climate. We have done a lot of controls recently.

What comes next? Switching to renewable fuels. Renewable energy, by definition, does not create climate emissions. At Unity College, a single renewable fuel pellet boiler, most likely provided by Biomass Commodities Corporation, Inc., attached to our Activities Building (one of those dinosaurs), would save nearly a quarter of our climate emissions AND pay for itself in just a few years.

Other smaller buildings would benefit from the new generation of cold climate air-to-air and air-to-water heat pumps, some of which are made in Maine. If a cold climate heat pump is run on 100% renewable power, no climate emissions are produced. These machines are right now cost-efficient as replacement or new installation heating equipment. A few more points in the price of oil, and it will become economic to replace existing boilers before their life cycle is over. The Hallowell company already promised us two of these to demonstrate in our new President's House, and Sustainability House.

This spring, the Board of Trustees will vote on a motion whether or not to fund $150,000 of new heating equipment at Unity College, to go for that pellet boiler, and a bunch more cold-climate heat pumps. This is enough renewable heat equipment to reduce our remaining emissions by at least 30%.

Watch this space for more details.

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