The Star-Herald

Heat pump technology offers alternative heating options

HOULTON, Maine — There is an all-too-familiar cool nip to the air many evenings and early mornings as summer is quickly giving way to autumn.

And while many may dread the impending cold-weather heating months, there is an alternative available for people who are looking to slash their energy bills this winter.

Heat pumps have risen steadily in popularity for people in Maine. Often a device used primarily for its cooling capabilities in warmer climates, those in colder areas, like northern Maine, have warmed up to the idea of using heat pumps as a supplemental heat source in the winter.

According to the Efficiency Maine website, more than 25,000 high efficiency ductless heat pumps have been installed in Maine homes and businesses over the past three years.

Dave Harbison, owner of Harbison Plumbing and Heating in Houlton, said heat pump sales have “taken off” in southern Aroostook County.

“It’s good technology and I think people like that they are designed to both heat and cool their homes,” he said. “Most folks, in this area, buy them thinking of the heating benefits, but temperatures have certainly changed the last 10 years or so that require more cooling days than before.”

Heat pumps provide an energy-efficient alternative to both furnaces and air conditioners. Ductless heat pumps provide warmth by extracting heat from the outside air and delivering it indoors.

Harbison said that because the units are moving heat, and not generating it, heat pumps can operate at 100 percent efficiency and can operate at outdoor temperatures as low as -15.

“While these are not considered primary heating sources, they can heat a home for the majority of the winter,” Harbison said. “People still should have a primary heating source as a backup.”

Efficiency Maine offers rebates for high-efficiency ductless heat pumps for residential and commercial customers.

Heather Johnson of Houlton said her family installed a heat pump unit a couple of years ago and were amazed at how well it worked in their home and helped reduce their heating costs.

“We love it,” she said. “We are cool and comfortable in the summer and warm and cozy in the winter with no major change to our electric bill.”

Rebecca Drew of Island Falls added that the Katahdin Public Library installed one three years ago and it has saved the group money, while also keeping the library comfortable.

For more information on heat pumps, visit Efficiency Maine’s website or contact Harbison Plumbing and Heating at 532-2600.

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