Learning about air-source heat pumps

Learning about air-source heat pumps

Before retiring and moving south, I was not familiar with heat pumps.

  • Living in the north, I required an especially powerful heating system and central air conditioning was unnecessary.

My house was equipped with a furnace. When I began looking at houses down south, I noticed that many of the nicer properties featured a heat pump. The real estate agent always mentioned the heat pump as an asset. I did a little research and learned that an air-source heat pump combines heating and cooling capability into a single unit. Rather than burn fossil fuels to generate heat, the system takes advantage of existing heat. It finds ambient heat in the outdoor air, uses a compressor to bring it to a higher temperature and then delivers this heat into the home by way of refrigerant. In the summer, the heat pump reverses the flow of refrigerant and operates very much like a conventional air conditioner. It pulls heat out of the house and transfers it outdoors. The heating and cooling process of an air-source heat pump is especially environmentally friendly and energy efficient. It helps to minimize heating and cooling costs yet provides a very clean, quiet and ideal comfort. The heat pump causes no concerns with insufficient humidity during the winter and helps out with reducing excess humidity in the summer. While a heat pump is rather expensive to purchase and install, the energy savings help to offset the investment. Now that I own a home with a heat pump, I am very happy with it. I have signed up for a maintenance agreement with a local HAC contractor to ensure proper service. I want the heat pump to run reliably for as long as possible.

Home owner solutions

Choosing a steam-style humidifier

Choosing a steam-style humidifier

I tried fixing the problem with a portable humidifier.

In my local area, the cold weather lasts for the majority of the year. It’s not unusual to run the furnace for eight months or more. We expect temperatures below freezing for months at a time and often experience sub zero conditions. The air outside and inside becomes extremely dry. The lack of humidity in the house causes some problems. Dry air feels colder than properly moisturized air, encouraging higher thermostat settings. Every time we raise the temperature on the thermostat, the furnace needs to work harder. It experiences more wear and tear, consumes more energy and results in higher utility bills. There is an increased risk of heating system malfunction. The dry air pulls moisture out of everything it touches, including wood furnishings. Hardwood floors, moldings, doors, musical instruments, picture frames and antiques are at risk of cracking. Family members complain of frizzy hair, chapped lips, dry skin and static shock. Because the air dries out nasal passages, occupants of the house are at a higher risk of developing respiratory infections. It takes longer to recover from a cold or flu. Insufficient humidity can be blamed for sneezing, coughing, headaches, congestion and aggravated symptoms of allergies, asthma, psoriasis and eczema. I tried fixing the problem with a portable humidifier. The unit didn’t provide enough moisture to make a difference and yet I was constantly required to fill the reservoir with water. I finally invested in a whole-home humidifier that is installed in the heating system and adds moisture to the air as it passes through. I chose a steam-style humidifier that operates independently from the furnace, allowing me to customize performance.

hvac unit

Maintenance for furnace and air conditioner

Maintenance for furnace and air conditioner

I am conscientious about the upkeep of important household equipment, systems and machines.

I make sure to drain the water heater every year and clean the dryer vent before every new load of clothes.

I remove the debris from the gutters on the house, make sure to have the blades sharpened on the lawn mower and schedule regular oil changes for my vehicles. A priority is the care of the furnace and air conditioner. In my local area, the temperature swings from the low nineties to twenty-five below zero. We switch between relying on the air conditioner to operate the furnace, with very little break in-between. Heating and cooling adds up to about 50% of the household energy bill. I know that by keeping up with annual service of the system, it will operate more efficiently and dependably. I have enrolled in a maintenance program with a local HVAC company. They call to remind me to schedule upkeep in the fall for the furnace and in the spring for the air conditioner. A technician comes to the house and completes a thorough inspection, cleaning, testing and adjustment of the system. He identifies any worn or broken parts and replaces them. He tightens electrical connections, lubricates moving parts and verifies the operation of the thermostat. For the air conditioner, he tests the refrigerant charge and cleans the cooling coils. For the furnace, he inspects the heat exchanger and cleans the burner assembly. Having these tasks completed prevents the majority of malfunctions and extends the service life of the equipment. I can be sure the heating and cooling system provide safe, energy efficient comfort. I can take confidence in our indoor air quality. I also know that I’ve met the requirements of the manufacturer’s warranty. If there are any problems, the furnace and air conditioner are covered.

air purification help

Duct cleaning improves furnace performance

Duct cleaning improves furnace performance

The process took a couple of hours but caused no mess or damage

Last winter, I noticed that whenever the furnace started up, I started sneezing. Once I began paying closer attention, I realized that it was necessary to dust and vacuum more frequently. There was definitely a higher concentration of pollutants circulating throughout the house. When I mentioned my concerns about indoor air quality to my husband, he said that he’d been dealing with frequent headaches and difficulty sleeping. I immediately hired an HVAC contractor to check out of the furnace. The technician took the heating unit apart and found a significant buildup of dust and other debris. He also tested the ductwork and discovered an alarming amount of contaminants, including bugs, webs and even decomposing rodents. Every time the furnace ran, it was distributing pollutants into our breathing air. Plus, the buildup within the ductwork was restricting airflow and forcing the furnace to work harder and run longer. This was causing issues with comfort, greater energy use and higher utility costs. The technician recommended a thorough duct cleaning. Since the pipes are concealed inside the walls and ceilings, I wasn’t sure how he was going to access them. He brought in a machine that resembled an industrial sized vacuum cleaner with a very long hose. The hose included a brush attachment that works to dislodge stubborn buildup of debris. He inserted the brush and hose into the ducts and through the use of suction, removed the contaminants. The process took a couple of hours but caused no mess or damage. The duct cleaning greatly improved the performance of the furnace and both comfort and cleanliness of the home.
Read more about heating equipment

Ductless multi split fixes comfort concerns

Ductless multi split fixes comfort concerns

My house was built in the late 1800s and has undergone multiple renovations since then.

  • Walls have been added and torn down.

Windows have been enlarged, replaced and eliminated. Because of the many changes, there are insufficient supply and return ducts in certain areas of the house. Some rooms tend to be overheated in the summer and chilly in the winter. After a lot of research, I decided to solve this problem with a ductless multi-split system. The system consists of an outdoor compressor that is compact, quiet and links to multiple indoor air handlers. The air handlers are lightweight, streamlined and mounted up high on the wall. Each one provides both heating and cooling capacity and features an independent thermostat that allows zone control. Because the ductless system requires no ductwork to operate and simply moves existing heat between the indoors and outdoors, it is especially energy efficient. It is a type of heat pump that uses inverter technology to automatically adapt output to the exact demands of each room, using only the amount of energy required at any given time. Plus, the installation project was completed in a matter of hours and caused no big mess or disruption to the house. Not only does the ductless split system provide ideal year round comfort but it helps to combat excess humidity in the summer and doesn’t dry out the air in heating mode. Multi-stage air filtration works to filter out contaminants and create a cleaner and healthier living environment. We are totally happy with our investment into the ductless multi-split system. It has provided the ideal solution.
Quality heating and cooling

Updating the thermostat

Updating the thermostat

Until recently, my home’s thermostat was an ancient plastic dial that required manual adjustment. Whenever a member of the family wanted to change the temperature setting, we needed to walk to the living room and physically turn the dial. The only function of the thermostat was temperature setting, and I don’t believe it was entirely accurate. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to replace the thermostat. Because it fulfilled my expectations, I never considered updating to a new model. It wasn’t until we had a brand new furnace and air conditioner installed that I purchased a better thermostat. The contractor who handled the installation project recommended that we take advantage of the benefits of zone control and wifi connectivity. We now have a smart thermostat that works to conserve energy, maximize comfort and reduce the cost of our utility bills. The thermostat in the living room acts like a central hub that manages the controls in each room of the house. Through an app on my phone, I’m able to access the thermostat and set customized temperatures according to occupancy, preference and room requirements. I no longer need to pay to heat and cool empty areas of the house. Plus the thermostat reminds me when it’s time to replace filters or schedule regular maintenance. It sends alerts when there’s a temperature fluctuation or power outage. I can take advantage of energy saving tips and humidity control. It’s very convenient that the thermostat knows our daily schedule and adjusts automatically. We always come home to a perfectly comfortable house.
Commercial AC

Dehumidifier improves comfort

Dehumidifier improves comfort

Moving down south was a big change for my family.

We traded our snow shovels, ice scrapers and heavy boots for sunscreen sunglasses and sandals.

Our former home was outfitted with a forced air furnace, and we never bothered with central air conditioning. We dealt with temperatures in the negatives, brutal windchill and issues with insufficient humidity. In our new location, the temperature never drops below freezing and often climbs into the triple digits. Central air conditioning is essential. Although we have a fairly new, top-of-the-line cooling system, it can’t handle the excessive humidity. Our first summer in the house, we dealt with condensation running down the windows and problems with mold and mildew growth. My leather shoes and purses were frequently growing fuzz. Our wooden doors warped and wouldn’t close properly. No matter how low we adjusted the thermostat, the air always felt slightly clammy. I finally bought a portable humidifier. That turned out to be a total waste of money. I had to empty the reservoir of the humidifier multiple times per day and never noticed any difference in our indoor environment. I then contacted a local HVAC contractor and got a recommendation for a whole-home dehumidifier. The indoor air quality accessory is installed right into the cooling system and pulls moisture out of the air as it passes through. I can adjust the humidity levels to our preferred comfort. The dehumidifier operates quietly, runs 24/7 and requires only annual upkeep. Since adding the dehumidifier, I’ve been able to raise the thermostat setting and yet the house feels way cooler and more comfortable. The savings on my electricity bills is quickly recovering the cost of the dehumidifier.
heating dealer

High cost of geothermal heat pump is worth it

High cost of geothermal heat pump is worth it

A geothermal heat pump is one of the most expensive types of heating and cooling systems to install.

The operation relies on an underground loop system that requires major excavation.

However, there are federal tax credits available and the price of these systems has come down in recent years. Plus, a geothermal heat pump offers a 400% efficiency rating. For every unit of energy the equipment uses to operate, it produces four units of energy, making it the most environmentally friendly option on the market. Installing a geothermal heat pump can cut heating and cooling costs by 50%. These systems typically recover the initial investment in under five years. Because the heat pump is situated inside the home and protected from the elements, it should last upwards of twenty years. The underground loop is normally warrantied for 50 years and can be expected to last double that. The heat pump has very few moving parts, minimizing both maintenance and the chance of malfunction. Geothermal systems take advantage of the free and renewable energy source found underground. No matter the weather, the underground temperature remains stable. During the winter, the geothermal system pulls heat out of the ground and transfers it into the house. In the summer, the operation reverses to draw heat out of the house and deliver it into the ground. The geothermal heat pump also provides a virtually free source of hot water. The system won’t dry out the air in the winter and effectively combat humidity in the summer. Despite the higher cost of a geothermal heat pump, it is one of the most beneficial options available.
HVAC technology

Benefits of heated floors

Benefits of heated floors

In my opinion, radiant heated floors are the best type of heating system.

One of the only drawbacks of heated floors is the lack of a central cooling option.

In the area where I live, the winter conditions linger for around eight months, and we often experience temperatures well below zero. I am always thrilled to finally open the windows and bring fresh air inside. I don’t want to start paying to run an air conditioner. Since our summers are short and often wet and chilly, window air conditioners in the bedrooms are sufficient. Heating is definitely the priority. An effective, efficient and reliable heating system is a must. My house has a boiler in the basement that heats up water and sends it through a series of pipes concealed beneath the floor. The operation is virtually silent and especially clean. The pipes create a closed loop system and avoid pulling in contaminants and distributing them into our breathing air. Because the pipes are installed under the floors, the heating equipment takes up no living space. I don’t need to arrange my furniture to accommodate supply and return vents. There are no unattractive components detracting from my decor. The heat is infused rather than blown into the room, avoiding drafts and temperature fluctuations. At any given time, the temperature from floor to ceiling is no more than three degrees from the thermostat setting. Every object sitting on the floor is warmed up and further radiates heat. There are no cold surfaces stealing heat. A big benefit of heated floors is the opportunity for zone control. We have a thermostat in each room that allows independent adjustment. I am not forced to heat empty rooms to the ideal temperature and can save quite a bit of money on my energy bills. It’s very nice that each family member can customize the comfort of their bedroom.

Quality heating and air

Waiting too long to replace furnace

Waiting too long to replace furnace

We had no choice but to call for emergency repairs and pay the extra fees.

When my family moved into our new home, the furnace was old and in bad shape. Since we had a long list of essential home improvements, we got by with the outdated heating system for several years. We needed to replace the roof before the leaks caused major structural damage. We were hesitant to install a new furnace when all of the windows leaked a great deal of air and there was no insulation in the walls and ceilings. There were also issues with the water heater, water pump and sewer lines. All of the plumbing pipes were corroded, and we dealt with constant clogs, backups and leaks. The electric lines were another big concern. The lines weren’t up to local safety codes. We needed more outlets in every room and a new breaker panel. All of these projects and expenses came before the furnace. Because the heater continued to operate, we kept trying to get through another winter with it. The heating system was so noisy that it woke us up when it cycled on in the middle of the night. No matter how high I set the thermostat, there were certain rooms that always felt chilly. I noticed that cleaning requirements such as dusting and vacuuming became more frequent in the winter when the furnace was operating. The furnace finally quit at the end of January, during an especially nesting blizzard. With outdoor temperatures down to negative twenty, we couldn’t get along without heat. We had no choice but to call for emergency repairs and pay the extra fees. The contractor informed us that the furnace was too old to find replacement parts. We had to replace it in a hurry. We had to settle for whatever heating system was available.

 

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