In south-central Montana, where winters deliver frequent sub-zero days, yesterday's heat pumps have gotten a pretty bad rap. But an electric cooperative is on a mission to change that with an all-electric home equipped with advanced technology that can keep residents warm and save money.

Beartooth Electric Cooperative is helping build a single-story, three-bedroom house in an affordable housing development that will be a real-life example of beneficial electrification: electricity use that saves consumers money, improves grid resiliency, boosts quality of life and reduces fossil fuel emissions.

“The whole basis of beneficial electrification is doing something good for the climate while providing saving and benefits for consumers,” said Kevin Owens, general manager of the Red Lodge-based co-op. “This house will do triple duty. It's all-electric, very affordable, it will contribute power from a solar array and give co-ops real-life data” on residential electrification.

The co-op will install a ducted mini-split heat pump as an alternative to the natural gas- and propane-fueled systems usually found in Rocky Mountain homes. A $7,000 grant from the Beneficial Electrification League paid for half of the unit, which is built for cold climates and has a heating seasonal performance factor of 12, better than both the federal Energy Star program and the state's HSPF.

Its cooling system will carry a 21 seasonal energy efficiency ratio, well above the 16 SEER recognized by Energy Star or the 14 SEER state standard. Owens notes that cooling in the region is becoming more important as recent summers have been “unbearable.”

The co-op will also outfit the 1,000-square-foot home with a host of commercially available systems, including an ultra-efficient heat pump water heater, heat recovery ventilation, a super-insulated building shell, the latest Energy Star electric appliances and all-LED lighting and advanced controls.

Beartooth EC is partnering on the project with Habitat for Humanity and a local foundation that builds affordable housing and plans to hold open houses to give members a look at the latest home electric systems and technology prior to putting it on the market next spring.

“This all-electric home will be a showcase for electric technology that is available in the marketplace,” said Owens. “We will be educating members with this house so they can ask the right questions of their builder or contractors so they can improve efficiency with electrification in their house.”