Budgeting for 2024? Two “Plugs” from the Energy Coach

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Plug-and-play heat pump water heaters; federal $7,500 point of sale incentives for EVs

When you’re thinking about making household upgrades and reducing your fossil fuel footprint, it’s a great idea to call or email Bill Powell, WEC’s Energy Coach. New tech comes along all the time – and so do new incentives. Before you make a big purchase, check with the Energy Coach to look at how you use power, what you want to change, and how you can do it.

New heat pump water heater tech

Powell is excited about new technology in heat pumps for water heaters. Water heaters traditionally draw a lot of power; even heat pump water heaters usually have conventional electric elements for quick heating and require a 240 volt outlet. The new tech is different. “It’s a pure heat pump. It has no electric element in it,” said Powell. It’s not as robust as heat pump water heaters that have been on the market – it lacks electric elements – though the cost is about the same. Nevertheless, the heat pump provides specific benefits that may match specific households’ needs.

Not only does the heat pump eliminate the use of propane, but new tech can be plugged right into a 120-volt outlet. That means you won’t need to rewire your circuit breaker or – if your transformer can’t support any more electric use – wait and pay for a transformer upgrade in order to upgrade your water heater.

The new heat pump water heater is best for one- or two-person households with relatively low hot water use. It also requires plenty of ambient air space, a high enough ceiling to fit, and access to a 120-volt outlet.

If your propane water heater is on the way out, your household hot water use is relatively low, and you have the space for it, consider this option. The sticker price may not be an incentive on its own, but installation costs are likely to be much lower than a hybrid hot water heat pump, and operating costs are far lower as well. Plus, there are tax credits available. “If you want to drop that fossil fuel enabled water heater for a completely electric one, here it is,” said Powell.

New incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act

A lot of the beneficial electrification money in the federal Inflation Reduction Act will flow through entities, like Efficiency Vermont, that are set up to promote and distribute incentives at the state level. Many incentives will take the form of tax credits, which are helpful for those members who have federal tax exposure.

One change, recently announced in Co-op Currents, is an update to make the federal incentive for buying a new electric vehicle. Starting in 2024, electric vehicle purchasers will be able to claim the federal $7,500 incentive at point of sale – which means buyers benefit right away, whether or not they have tax exposure.

The incentive was previously available as a tax credit. That credit was popular – and will be even more accessible now, Powell said, noting that the previous $7,500 tax credit was set to expire before the IRA passed. “And the EV market has changed, because there’s a lot more product. There are a lot more vehicles that are eligible, especially those that are domestically produced.”

The EV benefit is a big one, but you may still need to work with the Co-op to manage what your transformer can handle before WEC installs your Level 2 charger at no cost to you. See the Energy Coach’s page for questions and resources.

For more information about the 120-volt heat pump water heater: https://cleantechnica.com/2023/10/25/our-new-120-volt-plug-in-heat-pump-water-heater-is-one-of-the-first-in-the-country/amp/

For more information about the EV tax credit change: electrek.co/2023/10/06/ev-tax-credit-changes-mean-low-income-buyers-can-now-get-full-7500