Hi all,

Funny I just asked almost the same question as Chris over on  green building talk regarding a home we are eventually going to build here in VT--  I am assuming you are the same Dana that replied over there--small world?

It really feels like even at 2.4 COP average for the heat pump, it is going to compare evenly in $$$ to a 96% propane burner at $1.88 , which is not going to be an easy find on propane prices and I don't actually think that even takes into consideration the electricity that a gas burner uses?  Chris,  let us know what you figure out!  I saw a website with pricing between the FH15 and FE18 and they were the same price essentially, at $2250 (probably grey market internet pricing, so local installer pricing I would expect to be higher). 

With PV pricing on it's way down, does it make sense to wait before adopting? It appears that the pay-for-itself in VT  is still currently about 15 years with all federal/state incentives.

On Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 3:24 PM, Dana Dorsett <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Chris writes:
>I’ll probably just do a self-install(mostly) of a mini split and forget about the rebates.
FWIW: The -FH series Mitsubishis won't be available through local distribution for several weeks yet (according to a friend who just had an -FE18 installed at his place this week), but they're available via some internet stores.  Grapevine from an acquantance in Hanover NH has it that Fujitsu will not warranty any unit purchased via internet grey-market even if installed by a certified installer (apparently part of the contractual support agreements with the distributors.) I'm not sure if the same is true for Mitsubishi or noet, but assume that for mostly-DIY installation you are probably giving up any warranty support as well as the rebates.  But it can still be done, and they are pretty reliable if done correctly.
Unless you're going into the biz you probably don't even want to think about buying the necessary tools & instrumentation to properly pump down the system and install the refrigerant to the proper levels. It's worth paying a qualified tech on an hourly basis to do the final charging & test portion, but don't assume that they owe you anything more after you've handed them the check/sack 'o nickels/wampum/whaddevah for the services rendered.
Since we're already well into the weeds, and given that it's Way Off Topic season...
Apparently the new VT rebate structures and qualifications are currently still TBD. A draft amendment affecting it has been passed in the VT legislature, but is still awaiting the governor's autograph:  http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/bills/Passed/S-202C.pdf 
There is larger economic rationale for applying taxpayer/ratepayer funds toward displacing propane, heating oil, and natural gas (all of which are imported into the state, representing a net outflow of wealth from the state) by an increased use of electricity (which is mostly sourced in-state, or at least very locally regionally, keeping the wealth in the local economy).  The policy wonks still have to come up with clear and conservative models for the actual value of that change to the ratepayers/tax payers, but this is becoming a fairly polished act- don't be surprised if they publish the new subsidy information before the ink is dry on the amendment. 
Previously it was pretty hefty- $1000 for the first unit, $700 if you added a second, provided the models met the heating efficiency and capacity at low-outdoor temp requirements. (Which narrowed it down the -FExxNA and -xxRLS2-H mini splits, and the Daikin Altherma hydronic output air source heat pump- a very short list.)  By contrast, in the Peoples Republic of MA there is a subsidy that maxes out at $500, and for one unit only, and that program is set to expire at the end of 2014.   The rationale for subsidy by the ratepayers here was primarily the value of avoided peak power costs during heavy air conditioning grid loads by having extremely efficient air conditioning, and pretty much ignored the value of reduced grid-load for space heating even for those using resistance heaters.  It seems like it would be a no-brainer for freeing up valuable grid capacity during peak heating events, even if they are only running a COP of 1.5-2.5 at the 99% outside design temps in MA. 
Going even deeper into the weeds...
During this winter's peak cold snap competition for the resource between power generators and those using it for space heating drove the spot rates for gas thorugh the roof, and even then it wasn't clear there would be sufficient capacity from gas generators to keep the grid stable without firing up oil-fired peakers at some ridiculously high cost (which they in fact did.) The day-ahead market bidding was open for a record amount of time, since gas generation operators were being quoted gas prices & volumes that changed hourly- the ISO-NE operators were pretty freaked out by that, since literally half the annual regional grid power is from natural gas, usually more than half during summertime peaks (when the pipeline capacity isn't being guzzled by space heating systems):  http://www.psnhnews.com/press-releases/psnh-power-plant-fleet-called-during-cold-snap  It's probably cheaper to buy capacity by heavily subsidizing mini-splits for those heating with resistance power than to build/maintain/fuel/finance peakers that only run 100-200 hours per year, and thus have to charge ridiculous $/MWH to have business.  (This too will change with the distributed storage in the coming decade.)
Only the true energy geeks would want to see this, but the ISO-NE grid operator maintains a quasi-real-time website showing regional spot-market pricing & grid efficiencies, as well as the fractional fuel-sources:
It's not always up and running- try later if it dead-ends.  It only shows sources that are monitored directly in real time by the grid operator- any rooftop PV or micro-cogenerator power source from behind your meter (running it backwards) just appears as negative-load to them, so the renewables fraction of the true grid sources don't show up.   Metered wind farms & large municipal PV arrays do, but they are agnostic about the minute-by-minute or even daily levels of distributed power going onto the grid from simple net-metered sites. (The distributed newewable power source information is aggregated by others for purposes of selling production credits, but you never get to see it in real-time.)  As of 5 minutes ago the average winds in New England was pretty low, and the non-hydro renewables was supplying less than 7% of the grid load, and only about 0.3% of the total was from wind (about 1/3 the amount of power supplied by coal), a 36% was from nukes, and half was from natural gas.  On windier days wind power alone hits 2% of the total, and that is WAY up from a few years ago. Wind will be hitting double digits by 2020, but the output of distributed solar (that doesn't even register) will pass the mid-day fraction held by wind & coal combined by then, since the installed capacity of PV in New England has been doubling every 9-12 months for about a decade now (dominated by installations in MA, which should pass half a gigawatt before the end of this year, but still significant in VT & CT, not so much NH or ME) with no slow down in sight. 
Wind is growing at a rapid clip too (though not nearly as fast as in the midwest) but at a much slower exponent than PV in this region.  This is due to several factors- the cost of wind power is continuing to decline, but not as precipitously as PV, and unlike PV, wind is not economically scalable to the single-home  or sub-10kw (or even sub 100kw) level.  By contrast PV power, though more expensive on a lifecycle basis than large scale wind, it  is cheaper than the residential retail rates in much of New England, and will be cheaper than the residential rates in all of New England soon. Most states in the region allow third-party ownership of rooftop PV-  the difference between the lifecycle cost and the retail rates have sufficient arbitrage that well financed solar companies can cut the homeowner a discount on their power use in exchange for the privilege of putting panels on the roof, and still reap a hefty profit by selling production credits (in addition to better than breaking even on the power charged to the homeowner, still at 15-20% less than the utility would charge them.)  While outright ownership is a better long term better deal for most, the $0 down with 20 years of discount power at at a fixed sub-retail rate is pretty compelling.  There are other financing models in play too, but with or without the federal income tax credit it will only be getting cheaper, and the deals better year on year over in the next five years.
The PV party is only just getting started, but it's bound to really mess with the business models of incumbent merchant peak generation operators, as well as the utility companies once distibuted ratepayer-owned PV becomes a double-digit percentage of all power on the ISO-NE grid, cutting the air conditioning peaks down by a large a good fraction, and with net-metering-at-retail cutting into gross utility revenues.  If state reguators & utilities mis-calculate it could be pretty rough ride (as it is right now in Hawaii), but we'll see.  Utilities (and utility management) is used to being  regulated monopolies, and ratepayer-owned generation outside of their control is competion, something that takes a major culture shift to deal with inside some utilities.  But in the end competition should be good for all rate-payers (if not all utility bond holders or shareholders), unless the regulators really screw it up during the transition period.
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