Archive for February, 2011

Most Commonly Asked Questions about Heat Pumps

Monday, February 28th, 2011

If you’re thinking about buying a new heat pump for your home, chances are you have some questions about these types of products and how they work. In fact, because these types of home comfort systems are relatively new to a lot of people, there are a quite a few misconceptions out there about how effective and efficient they can be.

Recently we’ve gotten some good questions from our readers, so we thought we’d like to pass along the answers so that others can benefit from the information as well.

If I Buy a Heat Pump, Do I Have to Buy an Air Conditioner Too?

That heat pumps are only able to heat your home is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about this type of equipment. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air in one place and transferring it to another. That means that in the winter, your heat pump is able to heat your home by taking heat from the outdoor air and moving it inside.

However, in the summer, the heat pump is able to do the same thing only in reverse. When you switch on your heat pump’s cooling function, it will be able to take the heat out of your indoor air and transfer it outside. In this way, the same heat pump system can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer without you needing to purchase an air conditioner or other supplemental comfort systems.

If I Choose a Heat Pump System, Will I Also Need to Install Supplemental Heat?

That depends on what the climate is like where you live and how warm you like to keep your home. In general, heat pumps can keep any home comfortable as long as the outdoor temperature is above 32°F or so. If the temperature outside drops below that, you may want to have some type of supplemental heating system just in case. However, a heat pump will still be able to provide some warmth at these lower temperatures and you may be able to keep yourself comfortable with a simple space heater or too.

Also, remember that these colder temperatures are most common at night when you would probably have turned your heat down anyway. As long as you live in a relatively moderate climate, heat pumps can do a great job of keeping your home comfortable all year long.

Most Commonly Asked Questions about Heat Pumps

Monday, February 28th, 2011

If you’re thinking about buying a new heat pump for your home, chances are you have some questions about these types of products and how they work. In fact, because these types of home comfort systems are relatively new to a lot of people, there are a quite a few misconceptions out there about how effective and efficient they can be.

Recently we’ve gotten some good questions from our readers, so we thought we’d like to pass along the answers so that others can benefit from the information as well.

If I Buy a Heat Pump, Do I Have to Buy an Air Conditioner Too?

That heat pumps are only able to heat your home is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about this type of equipment. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air in one place and transferring it to another. That means that in the winter, your heat pump is able to heat your home by taking heat from the outdoor air and moving it inside.

However, in the summer, the heat pump is able to do the same thing only in reverse. When you switch on your heat pump’s cooling function, it will be able to take the heat out of your indoor air and transfer it outside. In this way, the same heat pump system can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer without you needing to purchase an air conditioner or other supplemental comfort systems.

If I Choose a Heat Pump System, Will I Also Need to Install Supplemental Heat?

That depends on what the climate is like where you live and how warm you like to keep your home. In general, heat pumps can keep any home comfortable as long as the outdoor temperature is above 32°F or so. If the temperature outside drops below that, you may want to have some type of supplemental heating system just in case. However, a heat pump will still be able to provide some warmth at these lower temperatures and you may be able to keep yourself comfortable with a simple space heater or too.

Also, remember that these colder temperatures are most common at night when you would probably have turned your heat down anyway. As long as you live in a relatively moderate climate, heat pumps can do a great job of keeping your home comfortable all year long.

When Should You Replace Your Existing Heat Pump?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Nobody wants to think about having to replace a home heating and cooling system. It’s a big job and a new system probably won’t come cheap – not if it’s worth buying anyway. But in the end, you’ll be better off replacing your heat pump sooner rather than later if you start noticing signs that it may be on its way out.

So what are these signs? Well, they’re actually pretty easy to recognize if you know what to look for. For instance, if your heat pump is suddenly making more noise than it used to, there’s a good chance that something’s going wrong inside. This may only require a minor repair, but if minor repairs like this become a regular occurrence, you should start seriously thinking about looking around for a new system.

The cost of even minor repairs will certainly add up quickly over time, and you’ll have to seriously think about whether it makes financial sense to continue to repair an older system rather than simply replacing it with a new one. Chances are that you’ll have to invest in a new one anyway, and the sooner you do it, the less you’ll have paid for repairs to a system you were just going to get rid of anyway.

Also, if you’re starting to notice humidity problems in your home or if some parts of your house are being kept warmer than others, it may very well be a sign that you heat pump isn’t working like it should. Again, this can sometimes be rectified with repair work, but especially if your heat pump is 10 years old or more, it probably makes more sense to replace it.

Another item to keep an eye on when you’re worried about how well your heat pump is working is your monthly energy bill. If you notice a sudden or even a gradual but steady increase over time that you know isn’t a result of an increase in energy prices in your area, you should suspect that your heat pump isn’t working like it should.

Even if it’s still keeping your home at a comfortable temperature, the fact that your heat pump is using more energy to do it is a sign that there’s something wrong with your system. Plus, newer systems are generally more energy efficient anyway, so you’ll be making up for the initial investment of purchasing a new system when you start paying even less on your monthly energy bills.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

If you’re in the market for a new home heating and cooling system, a heat pump is definitely an option worth considering. However, while the popularity of these systems is growing rapidly, many people still don’t understand what they’re all about. Before you go out and get yourself a new home comfort system, you should make sure you really know what you’re looking at

As their name suggests, heat pumps move heat from one location to another. However, their name can be misleading as well. Heat pumps are able to both heat your home in the winter and keep it cool in the summer by taking heat from the air in one place and sending it to another.

For example, your heat pump will remove the heat from your indoor air in the summer and pump it outside to keep your home cool. In the winter, the process is reversed, and the heat pump gathers heat from the outdoor air and pumps it inside to keep you house warm.

Of course, it’s not hard to see how the air inside your home in the summer has heat in it. But the outdoor air in the winter is cold. So how does a heat pump heat your house with cold air? Well, the truth is that there is almost always some heat in the air, no matter how cold it seems to you and me.

In fact, the temperature would have to drop well into the negative range before there was absolutely no heat to be found in the air. And heat pumps are specially designed to find that heat and collect it.

Basically all heat pumps work on this principle. However, they can’t keep your house comfortable all on their own. Heat pumps are usually installed as part of a complete home heating and cooling system. This means they’ll be paired with an air handler that can circulate the temperature controlled air throughout the house.

There are also some heat pumps that supplement the amount of heat they’re able to pull out of the air by heating it as it passes through. These types of heat pumps are often more effective in cooler areas, but because they require more energy to actually generate heat, they’re not typically as energy efficient as models that rely on their ability to get heat only out of the air.

How Efficient Is a Heat Pump?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Heat pumps are actually remarkably efficient when compared to some of the home heating alternatives out there. Especially if you’re already using electricity to heat your home, you can get generate huge savings on your monthly energy bills by switching to a heat pump system.

As their name suggests, heat pumps remove heat from the air and transfer that heat from one area to another. That means that in the winter, your heat pump will remove the heat from the air outside your home and pump that heat in to heat your home. During the summer months, that process is actually reversed, and heat pumps are able to cool your home by collecting the heat from your indoor air and pumping it outside.

Since heat pumps are actually just moving heat from one place to another rather than generating it all on their own, they don’t require much energy at all to operate. While you can buy furnaces that are as much as 97% energy efficient, they’re still using more energy than a heat pump would. The fact that the furnace is turning the vast majority of the energy that it uses into heat doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t require more energy to operate.

Just because heat pumps are more efficient than many other types of heating systems, you can’t just assume that all heat pumps are equally energy efficient. Just as different types and models of furnaces have different energy efficiency ratings, so too do the many types, sizes and models of heat pumps. Make sure you thoroughly compare your options before you settle on the right system for your home.

The energy efficiency rating of a furnace is easy to recognize, as each of them comes with a standard AFUE rating. If you’re looking to switch to heat pumps, however, it’s easy to get confused when you’re trying to compare the energy efficiency of various models.

Heat pumps actually have two separate measurements for energy efficiency. These are the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). Energy efficiency measurements for heat pumps reflect both the cooling and heating efficiency of the system, and so what’s best for you may vary depending on what you’re more likely to use your heat pump for.

Common Furnace Problems

Friday, February 18th, 2011

When it comes to your furnace, you simply want it to work all of the time. But just like any other piece of equipment, your furnace will have problems from time to time. A few of these are relatively simple to fix on your own, but for the most part you’ll need to call in someone to take care of the repairs for you.

However, before you can do that, you’ll need to recognize that a problem exists at all. And the earlier you notice the warning signs, the better off you’ll be. It’s always better to get a furnace problem taken care of right away than to wait until your furnace stops working completely.

It’s also good to remember that quite often the problems you’re having with your furnace are really originating with your thermostat. This is usually welcome news, as thermostats are much cheaper and easier to repair and replace than many other parts of your furnace. In fact, even if your furnace isn’t working at all, it may only be the result of a faulty thermostat.

Another problem you may start to notice is that one part of your house is being warmed more than another part. When this happens, it can be a sign that there is something wrong with the furnace, but it may also be that the pressure in your duct system is not balanced properly. A simple rebalancing of this system can have your house heating evenly again in no time.

You may also realize that your furnace seems to be cycling on and off too often. When a furnace is working properly, it will come on for a considerable period of time and then shut off until the temperature in the house drops below the desired level. However, some problems can cause your furnace to complete many short cycles rather than fewer short ones.

If this is happening to your furnace, there are several possible causes. Something might be wrong with the blower on the furnace or the thermostat might not be feeding the furnace the correct information. Another possibility is that your furnace’s air filter is dirty or clogged.

While there are sometimes simple and straightforward solutions to these types of common furnace problems, it’s best to call in a professional to have them take a look if you’re not sure where to start searching for a problem. In most cases you’ll need them to come out and make the necessary repairs anyway.

Crawlspace Heating Tips

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Keeping your crawlspace warm and insulated might not seem like something that should be at the top of your priority list. However, if you really want to find ways to save money on your heating and cooling bills and keep your home as comfortable as possible, it’s definitely something you should look into.

The crawlspace of your house is generally located beneath the floor and since it’s not someplace that you’re likely to spend much time, it’s generally not insulated or sealed against the elements very securely. In some cases, heating and cooling ducts and pipes carrying hot water can run through the crawlspace as well.

The lack of insulation in the crawlspace of your house can impact your indoor environment in a couple of ways. First of all, it often means that your floor is cold to walk on and that cool air can seep in through any cracks there might be in your flooring. This infiltration of cooler air means that your home heating system will have to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature inside.

Also, the air and water traveling through the ducts and pipes in your crawlspace will be losing heat as they go, so you won’t be getting all of the heat you’re paying for on that end either. Adding insulation in your crawlspace is the best way to keep from losing heat in this way. It’s generally not a huge investment and it will save you quite a bit in the long run. It can also help your heating system last longer because it won’t have to work so hard to keep your home warm enough.

If you live in an area with relatively mild winters and hotter summers, you might think that investing in some crawlspace insulation wouldn’t be worth it for you. But the truth is that you can save just as much by keeping your cool air inside in the summer as someone in a cooler climate can by keeping hot air inside in the winter.

And insulating and heating your crawlspace isn’t just about keeping the rest of your house warm. It can also help to keep moisture problems from developing. An excess of moisture in your crawlspace can quickly allow mold to develop and too little moisture is damaging to wood and can cause your heating system to function less effectively overall.

Cleaning the Heating Coil: It Can Save You Repairs Later

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Just like any piece of equipment, your furnace needs some regular attention and maintenance to keep it running right. And one of the most important parts of the furnace to pay attention to during these service visits is the heating coil.

Without the heating coil, your furnace simply won’t be able to put out heat to keep your house warm. That’s because the combustion in the furnace is used to heat the coil. Air is then blown across the heating coil so that it can be warmed before being circulated throughout the house.

If your heating coil isn’t kept clean, it’s easy to see how you could wind up with all types of problems down the line. And since air is constantly being blown across the coil when the furnace is at work, it’s particularly susceptible to accumulating buildups of debris and sediment.

When this happens, there are several consequences. First of all, your furnace will have a harder time heating your whole house and heating it evenly. As a result, all of the parts of the furnace will have to work overtime to keep your home warm and this can cause them to wear out and break faster. Of course, when that happens, you’ll need professional repairs to get you back on track and you may have to go without heat for some time in the coldest part of the year.

Also, a dirty heating coil won’t be as efficient at transferring heat to the air blowing past, meaning that you’ll be getting less heating power out of the fuel your furnace is consuming to heat your home. Essentially, this will mean your furnace is not functioning at peak energy efficiency and that will certainly be reflected on your monthly heating bills.

But all of this can be avoided by keeping your heating coil clean and in good repair. You will likely need to have a professional take care of this for you and it is a standard part of an annual maintenance visit. While you may have to pay a bit each year for that regular maintenance, you’ll be much better off and save a good deal of money in the long run by having it done and your coil cleaned.

Heat Pump Filter Care

Friday, February 11th, 2011

On the whole, heat pumps are efficient, durable and effective. They are built to run all year round without needing any more maintenance than your average furnace or air conditioning system and they have an average lifespan comparable to those other types of home comfort systems as well.

That’s not to say that there aren’t things you can do to keep your heat pump in good working order, however. Keeping up with the professional maintenance visits is an important step to take along these lines to be sure, but there are also some other things you can do on your own as well to help ensure the continued efficiency and health of your heat pump system.

Proper filter care is an important part of keeping your heat pump working the way it should. If you don’t have a heat pump yet but are thinking of getting one, make sure you have the installation technician show you where the filter is located and how to replace it.

If your system’s already been in place for some time, you can still find out how to care for the filter from your annual maintenance technician or you can probably even find it on your own by taking a close look at your heat pump. The filters are meant to be removed on a regular basis so they’re typically not hard to get to. However, you should always be sure that all of the power to your heat pump is turned off before you open it up to try and find, replace or clean the filter.

Most heat pump filters are meant to be changed or cleaned about once every 90 days or so. However, the specific requirements for each system can vary considerably, so you should be sure to find out what is recommended for the model of heat pump that you have.

Also, you’ll want to know what type of filter you have so that you can purchase the appropriate replacement. The model number for each filter should be clearly printed on it, so simply slide your current filter out and make note of the number so that you can purchase the correct type as a replacement.

Most heat pumps have replaceable filters, but some still do have permanent filters that are meant to be cleaned and then returned to service. If you have one of these types of filters, be sure to read the instructions for cleaning carefully before proceding.

Heat Pump and Zoning or Zone Control Systems

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

When you’re putting in a heat pump, it may also be a great time to look into having a zone control system put in as well. These types of systems can do a lot to both lower your energy bills and make your home as comfortable as possible throughout the year.

Zone control systems actually allow you to set different temperatures in different parts of your home. They use a system of dampers to direct more heat to certain areas and less to others. For instance, you may like to keep the living room nice and cozy in the winter because you’re typically just lounging around when you’re in there.

When you’re working in the kitchen, on the other hand, you’re usually generating some heat yourself from the stove and oven, so you don’t need to keep the temperature quite as high as it is in other parts of the house in order for the kitchen to remain comfortable. Of course, in the summer, these situations are likely reversed, and a zone control system will allow you to adjust accordingly.

Having the type of refined temperature control that zone control systems provide can be beneficial on several levels. It certainly helps make your home more comfortable, but it can also make it easier to reduce some of your home heating and cooling costs because you don’t have to heat or cool your whole house to keep it that way.

Zone control systems can also be a great way to end those constant thermostat battles that tend to erupt from when certain members of the household prefer one temperature, while the rest of the people in the house are more comfortable with another.

If you’re thinking of integrating a zone control system with your heat pump, you should make sure that the heat pump you get is as compatible as possible with this type of system. Most heat pumps will, in fact, work with zone control systems, but certain types are better than others.

The most important thing to look at when you’re trying to find the best heat pump to fit with a zone control system is the type of compressor the unit has. Heat pumps are available with one-speed, two-speed and multi-speed compressors and this affects how well they work at part of a zone control system. For best results, it’s good to opt for a two-speed or multi-speed compressor when you’re installing a zone control system as well.