Friday, February 23, 2001

Cinergy teams up in anti-pollution effort

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sunday Special: The High Cost of Keeping Warm
        Cinergy Corp. has joined other utilities studying new technology to remove pollutants from the smokestack emissions of coal-fired generating plants.

        Cinergy and a unit of Allegheny Energy Inc. have agreed to participate in research and tests of Powerspan Corp.'s Electro-Catalytic Oxidation system to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, particulates and other toxic substances.

        Typically, removal of those pollutants requires multiple systems, but Powerspan's technology is a lower-cost, single system that can be installed in existing power plants.

        “We at Cinergy are intrigued and fully support the multi-pollutant removal approach in finding more cost-effective ways of broadening our compliance options,” said Paul King, a Cinergy vice president.

        Late last year, Cinergy settled a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit over pollutants from its generating plants that could cost the utility up to $1.4 billion.

        Powerspan's technology is being tested at FirstEnergy Corp.'s R.E. Burger plant near Shadyside, Ohio, and a $11.9 million commercial demonstration unit is being readied at a FirstEnergy plant near Cleveland.

    Send us your questions about energy bills and conservation, and we'll ask the experts. Use the convenient e-mail form at Or:
    Mail to Betty Barnett, Enquirer reader representative, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
    Call (513) 768-8299 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
    Please include your name and phone number.
        Question: I say we should set the thermostat back to 63 at night and while we're away from home. My husband says we should keep the thermostat at a steady 66 because it costs more energy/gas/money to “reheat” the house once the temperature has been lowered. Who's right?

        Answer: Looks like your husband wins this one. James Dulley, whose energy column appears regularly in the Enquirer, says that in general, the longer the temperature is set back, the better the energy savings payback.

        He suggests multiplying the number of degrees you set the thermostat back by the number of hours to determine which produces the best energy savings.

        For example, if you move your thermostat setting from 68 to 65 degrees for eight hours, that's three degrees times eight hours, or 24. But if you turned the thermostat back from 68 to 66 degrees and left it there around the clock, that's 2 times 24, or 48.

        Q: I am about to install a new furnace. What should I buy? A gas furnace or a new electric heat pump? Which is more economical/efficient in the short and long runs?

        A: Traditionally, a gas furnace has been cheaper to operate, says Kris Knochelmann, general manager of Knochelmann Service Experts, a Covington heating and cooling company. But with the sharp rise in gas costs this winter, much of that advantage over an electric heat pump has evaporated, he said.

        A heat pump is a combined heating and air conditioning unit. In the warm months, it pulls warm air out of your house to keep it cool. In the cold months, it reverses the refrigerant flow and removes heat from the outside and blows it inside to keep the house warm.

        There are other advantages to gas heat. Mr. Knochelmann said some consumers think it provides warmer, more comfortable heat. Gas furnaces tend to last longer because unlike the heat pump, which runs year-round, they operate only in winter. The advantage of the heat pump is it can be used where natural gas isn't available or if the homeowner doesn't want gas in his home.

        If natural gas prices were to stay above their winter peak prices of about 80 cents per hundred cubic feet and the homeowner purchased a high-efficiency unit, the heat pump would offer an advantage over gas, Mr. Knochelmann estimated.

        But if you assume gas rates will decline to the 50 to 60 cents per hundred cubic feet range — as most experts expect — and you opted for a lower-efficiency system, gas would still have a cost advantage, he said.

        Q: I have a heat pump in my home. Is it true that when the temperature dips below 20 degrees that I should turn off my heat pump and run on emergency heat only?

        A: Mr. Knochelmann said that's a general rule of thumb because when the temperatures get extremely low, the heat pump labors to produce heat.

        But in Cincinnati's climate, extended periods of low temperatures are rare, so consumers are probably better off letting the heat pump run.

        “You're better off letting the system do what it's designed to do,” he said.


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