“It’s cold in this house! We need some real heat, better than just these little electric heaters in every room. And we’ve got monster power bills! I say we splurge and get a wood burner in the lounge.”
Marg looks at me. “I thought you didn’t notice the cold. I thought you dressed like a Viking because you liked the look.”
“Nah, he looks more like a homeless man than a Viking”, son Jimmy pipes up from the other room. “You’d do awesome begging out in Seymour Square. What do you say, Dad? We could use some money for the tree planting this weekend.”
Damn, I didn’t realise I still had the blanket over my shoulders!
Marg smiles her bemused smile: “I agree, we need better heat in this house. How about a heat pump? It could also be used for air conditioning in the summer.”
Google Assistant chirps in from the other room: “Heat pumps are highly efficient at heating and cooling homes. The Coefficient of Performance of modern heat pumps typically ranges from 2.0 to 4.5, meaning that they heat 2.0 to 4.5 times more than the amount of electricity they use. For cooling, the energy efficiency ratio ranges from 2.5 to 4.0, meaning that it cools 2.5 to 4.0 times more than the electricity it uses.”
Me: “It puts out more heat than the electricity it uses? How does it do that?
Google: “Rather than making heat from electricity, it pumps in heat from the outdoors, like a refrigerator running in reverse.”
Marg: “And, since virtually all our electricity on the South Island comes from hydro, it creates almost no emissions.”
Google chirps in again: “A heat pump appropriate for the size of the lounge and for the seasonal temperature variations in Blenheim would cost between $3000 to $4000, depending upon efficiency and extras.” Should I book you a free consultation with a local installer?”
Me: “No, no Google. Not yet!”
Jimmy pipes in again: “Sweet! Put the heat pump close to my room!”
And there I was hoping he was about to go flatting!
Me: “You know, Marg, I think a wood burner would be better. Think of it: A nice fire to liven up the lounge…”
Marg: “And wood piles in the shed, full of spiders and cockroaches. I suppose you plan to split the logs too. We should save time and book the physio now. Do you even know how to chop wood?”
Me: “Of course I know how to chop wood! I’ve watched plenty of episodes of “Man Versus Wild”.
Marg: “Well, we’d need to get a wood burner that puts out low emissions.”
Me: “Don’t they all put out CO2 emissions?”
Marg: “I’m talking about smoke emissions. Soot from smoke is bad for our health and a cause of global warming.”
Goggle chirps in: “Black carbon particles from soot in our atmosphere absorb sunlight and reduce the amount of light reflected back into space. When deposited on ice and snow, they absorb light that would normally be reflected, which melts more snow and ice in a positive feedback of warming.“
“On the other hand, lighter-coloured soot particles in the atmosphere reflect sunlight, resulting in climate cooling. The overall effect of wood smoke on climate change is complex.”
Me: “You see Marg; wood burners are not all that bad for the climate.
“Hey Google, which is cheaper, a heat pump or wood burner?”
Google: “A low emission wood burner for the lounge would cost about the same as a heat pump.”
Marg: “Maybe we should get a heat pump AND a wood burner.”
Google: “Three local businesses participate in a Marlborough District Council’s Clean Home Heating grant program, which includes both heat pumps and wood burners. The council buys the appliance and you pay it back over 9 years at 5.5% interest. Should I start an application?”
Oh oh, looks like we’re buying both a wood burner and a heat pump. I can forget that sailboat.
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These are a collection of opinion articles principally written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim. Some articles have been written by other CKM members, and their names appear with those articles.