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Down the Road

Wow! The heat pump -- what a savings
By Milton M. Gross
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:13:07 AM

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Our old oil boiler for the baseboard heat hasn't run now for over a week.

We've been heating with the new mini-split heat pump.

Heating with it, but worried, because we had not yet seen an electric bill. Despite the installer's telling us a mini-split heat pump set at 100 degrees F would run at about the energy output of an oil boiler set at 65, we still worried about the bill we hadn't yet seen.

We're good at worrying, and we were afraid we'd made a wrong decision to pay about $3,300 for the new heating device.

Even though the old boiler is basically worn out and said by a technician to be good for only another year or two.

Even though I knew from research that electric heat is less expensive than oil or propane heat.

Even though, even though.

Then two envelopes from Bangor Hydro arrived. The first turned out to be a rebate check for our installing the new heat pump.

"Probably a hundred dollars," one of us said, not believing that good things could ever really come to us.

It was for $600.

Okay, but most likely the electric bill would be so high the $600 would barely cover it.

We're real optimists, possibly from both of us having graduated years ago from the University of Hard Knocks.

A day later the electric bill came. Dolores opened it while I was at work.

When we finally got comfortable on the sofa that evening, she said, "You'd better look at this."

Looking for a place where I could land when I fainted from shock, I pulled the bill from the envelope.

Our new mini-split heat pump at the end of our living room is heating the entire ranch house at a fraction of the cost of our old oil boiler. Milt Gross photo.

One hundred forty-three dollars. Yup, $143.

Not $600, or even $400. But $143.

Finally, we felt as if we'd made a correct decision by having the mini-split heat pump installed.

Our monthly oil budget plan called for $250 a month.

Our oil creates pollution, which joined with millions of others, adds to the global warming problem. Geez, global warming could mean less snow and cold, a good thing. It also will mean more violent storms, a bad thing.

Besides, our "good old days" memories include those cold Maine winters featuring lots of snow.

We're planning to get rid of oil totally within the next year instead of paying a fortune to repair or replace it and continue with those monthly budget-plan payments.

We have found a drawback with the new mini-split system, which we think we can resolve. In our 1,110- square-foot ranch house, the farther distances are two or three degrees cooler than in the living room near the heat pump. Our house is long and open in the front, kitchen, dining space, and living room. In the back, it is chopped up into three rooms and a bathroom. The back is where it becomes cooler.

Adam, the engineer who operates Maine Alternative Comfort which installed our mini-split, said we could turn the temperature setting of the mini-split quite high to obtain higher temperatures in far corners of the house and still pay a lot less for heat than we had been with oil.

We carefully chose a different way to even out the temperatures in those cooler reaches of the house. We bought and use sparingly two portable electric baseboard units, and we use a portable electric baseboard unit we've been using in the bathroom since the oil heat never has heated the bathroom adequately due to limited space for the baseboard unit.

These small heaters have made a difference, when we have them turned on. And we know electric heat of any type is less expensive than oil.

So now, using these small electric heaters to supplement the "supplemental" mini-split baseboard that we're using as our main source of heat, we feel comfortable now in starting to worry again.

How high will our next electric bill be?

We don't know, but based on the current bill it will be a good deal less expensive than our oil monthly budget plan was.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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