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Update on Ozark Electric Co-op’s Ductless Heat Pump Pilot Project
After two years’ usage, members impressed with heat pump’s performance.
Ozark Electric Cooperative members Shannon and Amanda Ostertag, Monett, say they are happy with their mini-split ductless heat pump. You may recall the Ostertags were the lucky recipients of the free ductless heat pump offered by Ozark Electric as a pilot project that was introduced at the September 2011 Annual Membership Meeting. We thought you might like to know how the Ostertag’s unit is working out for them after almost two years of usage and learn a little more about ductless heat pumps.

What is a ductless heat pump? According to the Energy.Gov website, ductless mini-split-system heat pumps, which do both heating and cooling, make good retrofit add-ons to houses with "non-ducted" heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be a good choice for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible. Like standard air-source heat pumps, mini splits have two main components -- an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units.

What we like about them. According to energy experts, mini-split heat pumps offer several bonus features including providing zonal heating and cooling for certain areas of the home with each zone having its own thermostat so only the rooms occupied need to be conditioned. For instance the temperature on a central air unit for the whole home can be set higher at night, and the temperature on the more energy efficient ductless heat pump unit installed in the bedroom can be turned down cooler making a comfortable sleeping environment. Quiet operation, flexible installation, and increased efficiency are all benefits of this type system; however, what consumers seem to really like is that there is no ductwork to be installed, so if just adding on a room or needing to heat and cool one area of the house is the plan, it is definitely a viable solution. Another advantageous use would be the heating and cooling of a small workshop – no need to install ductwork with the mini-split unit.

It should be noted that the ductless heat pump is more costly to install than, for instance, a window air conditioner, but remember it does both cooling AND heating so the advantages may outweigh the initial cost in the long run. Keep in mind there are also many factors that can affect performance of the heat pump such as square footage and insulation of the area being heated or cool, the temperature set by user, how often and for what reason it is used, etc. Let’s take a look at how OEC’s pilot project worked out for the Ostertags.

Pilot Project background information. OEC’s pilot project was deemed a good idea because curiosity was building and questions were being asked by our membership about the new technology. Ozark Electric Cooperative’s (OEC) objective was to bring a ductless heat pump on our system and monitor its performance so we would better be able to advise our members about its credibility.

Applications were made available to members when OEC introduced the program at its 2011 Annual Meeting. Applications were also printed in the November 2011 “Electric Sparks/Rural Missouri” newspaper which was mailed to all OEC’s members. Advertisement of the program was published on the Co-op website and billing statements. Deadline to apply was December 31, 2011.

The value of the pilot project soon became evident as more than 150 members of OEC submitted applications for the free ductless mini-split heat pump. OEC personnel read and screened each application and narrowed the field down to six applicant finalists who then received a site visit by Member Services employees. Once again the applicant field was narrowed down to three who were then visited again, and after much review, the Ostertags of Monett were chosen to receive the free heat pump.

Ductless heat pump installation and performance. The ductless heat pump was installed on August 16, 2012, by Schoen Heating and Air of Freistatt at a cost of $4,664. OEC employee, Daniel Smith, Meter Technician/Lineman, actually did the wiring for the unit with wiring materials provided by OEC. The unit was an LG 2-ton mini-split system installed for zonal heating/cooling – not to condition the entire house.

The Ostertag’s home was a recently remodeled two-story, three bedroom home with approximately 1,700 square feet, which consisted of 1,000 square feet of main living area. The home is heated and cooled by an air source heat pump with propane as the backup heat. In just the first three months’ of usage the Ostertags noted a slight reduction in their kilowatt hour usage. After OEC’s monitoring the usage of the mini-split ductless heat pump for almost two years, we asked the Ostertags themselves to give us their opinion of the ductless heat pump unit and how they liked it.

The Ostertag’s review of the heat pump. Shannon Ostertag recently answered the following questions about the ductless heat pump installed at his home:

What did you like about the unit? The location of the (ductless) heat pump kept the living room really warm and allowed the heat to make its way upstairs. We had to turn the heat down in the evenings at times. It is super quiet. It helped supplement the air conditioner. My wife’s happy with it. We couldn’t really see any significant change in our electric usage (this is actually seen as positive because the unit was ADDED to their existing heating and cooling system).

What did you dislike about the unit? Nothing, pretty happy with it.

Did you use it as expected? Yes.

Would you buy one for yourself? Yes. We plan on building a shop in the future and are leaning towards installing a couple of these heat pumps in it.

Comments/Expectations: I wasn’t familiar with them at first, but I was impressed with its performance. I liked not having to have ductwork installed. The bottom line is the Ostertags are happy with the installation of their mini-split ductless heat pump, and OEC has deemed the pilot project a success.

Rebates available. Should you decide that a mini-split ductless heat pump is for you, be sure to choose an ENERGY STAR® compliant unit and hire an installer familiar with the product and its installation. In fact, Ozark Electric Cooperative members can take advantage of a $150/ton rebate for mini-split ductless heat pumps with a minimum SEER rating of 16.5 installed in 2014. For more information and details about the rebate program, call any of our office numbers and ask for the Member Services Department.
Help us keep your rates affordable
Help Ozark Electric Cooperative keep your Electric Rates Affordable - The Impact of EPA Regulations on You
We’ve written before about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to eliminate coal as an energy resource at new power plants. This is very concerning because these regulations, along with the ones EPA has in store for existing coal-based power plants, have the potential to drive up your electric bills. Missouri enjoys some of the lowest electricity rates in the country because 75% of electricity comes from clean coal resources.

Now is the time for electric cooperative members to join their voices together to send a clear message to the EPA:  please remember consumers as you are writing these regulations. You can help first by visiting www.Action.coop today and sending a comment to the EPA.  You can also help by sharing the link to your friends and family.

What’s at stake? Providing safe, affordable electricity, at Ozark Electric Cooperative is our #1 priority. While these EPA regulations are technical, the potential increase in electric rates is something we take personally because we know it’s difficult to make ends meet month-to-month. We know the tough choices you face – we all face – in trying to live on a budget. That’s what sets cooperatives apart from other utilities and that’s why we must stick together.

Thousands have answered the call already and sent comments through www.Action.coop. In fact, as of Friday, March 7, these are the number of action.coop EPA contacts:

    National contacts:          302,192
    Missouri contacts:          100,318
    Ozark Electric contacts:     6,052

Missouri, once again proving it really is the "Show-Me" State, is still leading the way in the nation for the most # of contacts: 100,318, which is 33% of all contacts made nationwide and more than the second- and third-place states combined - South Carolina with 40,801 and Indiana with 25,779. But we need more. Here at Ozark Electric Cooperative we look out for you. And we don't take this request lightly. It only takes 30 seconds to help raise our voices together.

We’ve encouraged all of our employees to sign up … and ask their friends and families. For several months, we have asked you, our members, to also contact the EPA. And now we’re asking the same from you – if you have not already done so - please help us fight proposed regulations that could drastically increase your electric rates.

We need you to take a stand and urge your families and friends to join us. Visit http://www.Action.coop/. And talk to your neighbors about what we’re doing and why.

We’re powering the future, driving economic growth and fostering innovation for you. And we don’t want these new regulations to get in our way of progress. Please join the call and help us keep moving forward. Please watch the following video featuring Ozark Electric Cooperative General Manager Patrick Oehlschlager to learn more about this important issue.

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