COLUMBIA, 9/17/10 (Beat Byte) -- A dispute between a Columbia family and the city's Water and Light department highlights an important but not-widely-known way to save money on utilities.
If you have a heat pump -- a device that actually pumps heat into and out of your home and looks like a big air conditioner -- you save money two ways: lower consumption and a lower electric rate.
The Young family at 1206 Vintage Drive had a heat pump, but until they complained, weren't getting the lower rate -- the "heat pump rate." They wanted a refund for their overpayments.
"The electric rate for the Youngs was incorrectly set at the residential electric service rate," reads a report to the Columbia City Council, prepared after sustainability inspector (and local television personality) Dave Mars (above) investigated.
Turns out it wasn't the city's fault. Neither the Youngs nor their contractor told the city about the heat pump. As Mars explained, if the city doesn't know you have a heat pump, you won't get the heat pump rate. The Council report suggests establishing a grace period between the time of installing the heat pump and the required notification. In the past, passing a home insulation inspection was also required for the lower rate.