Many Blue Ridge Summit homeowners who heat their homes with an older heating system—whether it’s a furnace or a heat pump—may want to consider upgrading to a more efficient system. Older furnaces with an AFUE rating of less than 80%, for instance, could be costing you a lot more than you realize in heating bills.
While it is a significant initial investment, upgrading to a more efficient furnace or heat pump will pay for itself in energy savings. Before you decide on whether or not an upgrade is right for your Blue Ridge Summit home, here are some things to keep in mind.
Some types of fuel, such as electricity, are more expensive in certain areas. Depending on where you live, you may want to compare the cost of fuel before choosing a heating upgrade. In fact, natural gas may or may not be available to your home. Check with your utility company to find out what types of fuel are available and which ones would be more cost-efficient for heating your home. You can always call a qualified HVAC technician if you have any questions about a heating system upgrade.
Whenever you are thinking about upgrading your heating system, you’ll want to make sure your home is properly insulated and sealed. If you purchase and install a highly efficient furnace, it won’t save as much in energy bills if your house is poorly insulated. Get a home energy audit with a local energy resource organization if you aren’t sure. You might want to also consider upgrading your old windows and doors, or installing storm doors and windows to improve air tightness.
A lot of homeowners forget that any upgrade or remodeling project will increase the value of their home. Not only will a heating system upgrade lower your heating bills; it will also add value to your home and property. Always make sure you choose the right system for your home so that it lasts as long as possible.
If you are considering upgrading the heating system call Larry & Sons to speak with one of our in your Blue Ridge Summit heating repair experts to ask about our quality products and installation services.
A backup heating system is sometimes necessary for Blue Ridge Summit homeowners who heat their homes with an air-source heat pump. This style of heat pump transfers the heat from the outside air to your home in the winter, and it pushes the warm air outside the home in the summer. Although some systems are efficient enough to work in colder climates, most heat pump systems require a backup heater when temperatures drop below 20° F.
Furnaces are commonly used as a backup heater for air-source heat pumps, especially since the furnace fan blower can help distribute the hot air throughout the home. Although they are more expensive to buy and install, geothermal heat pumps typically do not require a backup heating system. These are also called ground-source or water-source heat pumps since they draw in heat from the ground below the house or from a nearby water source. Because they take advantage of the ground or water temperatures, they are also easier to maintain and have lower operating costs.
Getting the most cost-efficiency from a geothermal heat pump will depend on several factors, such as the size of your property, the temps of the subsoil, and access to local water sources. You will most likely not have to install a backup heating system with a ground-source or water-source heat pump; however, it is important to think about the installation costs and the variables that need to be in place before deciding on this type of heat pump.
Absorption heat pumps use a heat source, such as natural gas or solar-heated water, instead of electricity. Natural gas is typically used for absorption heat pumps, so they are also called gas-fired heat pumps. Depending on the source of the heat, you may or may not need a backup heating system. It’s always best to speak to a professional heating and cooling contractor if you are not sure when it’s necessary for a backup heating system.
Call Larry & Sons if you have any questions about a backup heater for your Blue Ridge Summit home.
Refrigerant is often called the “lifeblood” of mechanical heating and cooling devices like the heat pump and air conditioner in your Mercersburg home. The main function of refrigerant is to transfer heat through a closed loop system. Various heating and cooling (HVAC) components require different operating pressures to move refrigerant and process the “refrigeration cycle.”
In a nutshell, the refrigeration cycle involves refrigerant, which changes from a liquid to a vapor and back to a liquid again by the addition of pressure and heat. In a refrigeration system, pressurized refrigerant passed through an expansion valve into an evaporator and pressure is reduced. The evaporator is a tube which passes by the area to be cooled. When the pressure drops, this liquid refrigerant changes into a vapor, which absorbs vaporized heat from the area around the evaporator. After the heat is absorbed by the refrigerant, it flows to a condenser, where it passes over coils, absorbs heat from the hot vapor, and condenses back into a liquid. The liquid is returned to the compressor and the cycle begins again.
Today’s refrigerants – especially those used in residential applications – are broken down into two different types, labeled R-22 and R-410A. R-22 is made up of a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemical, which has been found to be damaging to the Earth’s ozone layer. It has been replaced by R-410A, which is made up of a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) chemical and will eventually be phased out by the year 2020. One of the biggest differences between the two are their operating temperatures. HFCs operate at much higher refrigerant pressure.
This change between refrigerants has created some interesting dynamics and challenges for the HVAC trade. Gauges used to check pressure readings have all changed. And mechanical compressors do not operate with a variety of refrigerants, so the compressors and coils need to be swapped out, too. To give you an example, let’s say you are shopping for a new central air conditioner. Chances are, the new air conditioner will run on R-410A. Your old air conditioner ran on R-22. In order to “match” the compressor in the your new air conditioning unit to the existing indoor coil, you will need to replace the coil and the lines running from your outdoor condensing unit to your indoor air handling unit, which is mounted to your furnace.
You don’t have to understand the refrigeration cycle to know that today’s high-pressure HFC refrigerants require different test instrumentation and retrofitted or upgraded mechanical equipment. The change in operating pressure is a small price to pay for a safer environment.
Being cold in the winter is normal – as long as you are outside. But you shouldn’t be cold inside your Greencastle home. If that happens, the first place to look to is your furnace, which may not be working correctly. Furnaces are like any other piece of mechanical equipment. They need to be maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure they are working at peak efficiency and warming your entire home at your desired comfort level.
First of all, check and see when you last had your furnace serviced. If it has been over one year ago, you should schedule a maintenance inspection from your local qualified heating and cooling professional. And when you make that appointment, ask about service agreements and getting on a regular maintenance schedule. Most heating and cooling contractors offer service agreement plans which include furnace and air conditioning check-ups on an annual basis.
Okay, so you know who to call for maintenance but what can you do yourself? First of all, give your furnace a little “help” by checking the vents and returns throughout the house. Ensure that there are no obstructions or blockages such as rugs, clothing, furniture, etc. You need to have unobstructed paths for your heated and return air to flow. The more congested the path, the harder your furnace will have to work. And while you’re at it, make sure your vents are open or closed, depending on how much you use your rooms. For example, if you have an extra bedroom that doesn’t need to be heated, closed off the vent or close the damper in the ductwork. The heated air will be diverted to other parts of your home where it is needed.
Another maintenance function that you can perform is cleaning or replacing the furnace filter. Depending on the size of your home and its air quality (occupants, pets, etc.), you may want to clean or replace your air filter every one to three months. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and can put contaminants like dirt and dust right back into your air system. If you don’t know how to replace your air filter, consult the furnace owner’s manual or go online to learn more. If your furnace uses an electrostatic air filter, it will need to be removed and cleaned, either by using a hose or with soapy water and a hose. Make sure you let it dry before re-installing it.
You may also want to inspect any electrical wires around your furnace to ensure none are broken or frayed. A visual inspection should be good enough.
Once you have done what you can, let your Greencastle heating and cooling professional take over from there. They are licensed and trained to inspect your furnace and ensure that it is in peak operating condition.