Opinion: Heat pumps troubling / VT taxpayers on hook for Burlington high school?

Concerns around heat pumps Heat pumps have refrigerants circulating to heat and cool. Are sellers and installers including a Materials Safety Data Sheet giving the specifications about the refrigerants?

Typical homes with older pumps use R134a, newer ones use R1234ya because R134a was phased out over concerns about its effect on the ozone layer. Most refrigerants, including newer formulations, affect ozone and can have other environmental impacts if a leak develops in the pump’s system. This is a likely reason why your installer recommends a licensed, trained professional to inspect the unit twice per year and ascertain that it is in good working order.  

As consumers, we need to inform ourselves of the possible issues concerning these devices, and then make informed decisions based on risk assessment versus what is essentially a mandate from our state government. 

Should we think about the downstream effect of unintended consequences, i.e. accidents, acts of nature, or violence? The tragic accident in East Palestine comes to mind. These gases and chemicals are moved around all over the country from storage to manufacturer to storage to dealer to consumer via container ship, barge, rail, truck. Are our local emergency services ready to handle these possible catastrophes? Are homeowners aware of the dangers of these gases if there were a fire at their home? 

Granted petrochemicals have similar opportunity costs. We have lived with them for more than a century. But the safe for the environment and effective energy conservation messaging have me reassessing. Joanne Bertrand, Lyndonville

All Vermonters are paying Burlington’s bills – I bring to your attention an article in Seven Days regarding Burlington High School. From the article: 

“Flanagan and other school officials are closely tracking H.486, a bill that would pause the state’s school PCB testing program and allocate $16 million for demolition and removal of PCBs at Burlington High School. The House advanced the measure last week, and it’s now before the Senate.”

“I believe [legislators] understand that this is not a local issue; this is a state issue,” Flanagan said. “As the key economic driver of our state, having strong workforce development in place and having a healthy high school is critically important to the health of our state.”

I trust senators are aware that public school infrastructure costs (both remediation and new construction) become part of school budgets. Since 2/3rds of Vermont residents receive some financial assistance from the State Education Fund via income sensitivity, the reality is every Vermont resident (throughout the entire State) who pays education taxes into the State Education Fund will be contributing to the new high school in Burlington.  

Most people do not understand this aspect of public school financing in Vermont.

Now the Superintendent in Burlington is pleading for another $16 million dollars… contributed by all Vermont taxpayers… to be provided by the Legislature to Burlington for demolition and removal of PCBs.

Let me say the obvious: Burlington has some of the wealthiest Vermonters in the entire State and the budget of Burlington dwarfs that of many Vermont communities. The needs of Burlington should be the responsibility of the residents of Burlington.

Once again an all-too-often economic malignancy is profiled  in Vermont. I detail it as “gimme, gimme, gimme; more, more, more.” 

I encourage you to tell your legislators that all Vermonters will be contributing to the new Burlington high school because of how public school financing works in Vermont.  

Burlington asking for an additional $16 million dollars of taxpayer money is, plain and simple, greed elevated to an offensive degree.  

The Legislature should tell Burlington the City should pay its own bills. Gerry Silverstein, South Burlington

Categories: Opinion

2 replies »

  1. Joann, I have to respectfully disagree. R134a is primarily used in automobile A/C systems, R-410a is what is currently used in all these ductless heat pumps that are the fad right now. R-410a is being phased out and replaced by R-32 (and a few others), in fact R-32 is a blend that used R-410a.
    That said, what will happen when 410a is completely phased out, and the replacement refrigerants(s) are not compatible with the refrigerant lines, due to pressures, and the blend itself. People have no idea the amount of cost it will take to retrofit so many places that have had 410a systems installed that the lines are too small or cannot handle the pressures of the new blend, and the refrigerant lines need to be replaced. Many installation have those lines buried in walls or hidden from sight, can’t wait to see how many complain.
    As for the refrigerants themselves, unless the amount of volume in the system is extensive, R-22 was phased out, and luckily, 410a is what is called in the industry a “drop in replacement” which means it some instances, the old refrigerant lines can be “flushed out” using a specific method, then 410a can be introduced into those lines as a drop in replacement, if the line sizes are correct for the equipment AND if the joints on those lines are brazed, not soft soldered, so they can handle the pressures of 410a. This will not be the case with R-32, as the pressures are different and currently no manufacturer has introduced a drop in replacement, due to line sizes are completely different, along with pressures, so this means ripping out old lines and replacing them with ones that are correctly sized for the equipment & R-32.
    Just look at all these new multi-family buildings going up and take a closer look at the heat pumps and how they’re installing the lines, they’re burying them in walls with no means of future replacement without having to endure the construction costs to open up walls/ceiling to replace the lines.

  2. More costs for the Vermonter. Along with requirements to have it inspected, bi-annually ($). Shame on the Vermont government.