During the winter, many homeowners have their heating system running non-stop. With this season’s frigid weather, homeowners will need to come up with ways to use their heating units more efficiently to reduce utility bills. Taking steps to use your HVAC system more efficiently allows you to reduce overall energy consumption without sacrificing your home comfort. Below are just a few easy ways you can achieve better all-around efficiency with your heating system. Continue reading
When designing a home heating system there are several options to chose from for providing that heat. There is the heat pump, furnace, boiler, solar, or even geothermal. But depending on where you live, both for availability to operate those systems efficiently, and for the climate, will have an effect on what system or systems you should choose.
One of the newest ways to heat your home is through a hybrid system. A hybrid heating system combines the high-power heating of a furnace with the efficient operation of a heat pump.
The furnace is a heating appliance that uses natural gas or propane to heat air that is blown throughout the home via a fan within the furnace. Gas furnaces are fairly inexpensive to purchase and install but are prone to fluctuating costs of operation due to the nature of the markets for the fuel that powers it. They provide powerful heating even when the outside air temperature is very low.
The heat pump is the machine that people often think of then they hear the term “AC unit”. When the refrigerant flows in one direction it provides cooling to the home. Through the use of a reversing valve, the refrigerant will flow the other way through the system and provide heating for the home. The heat pump offers efficient heating for the home and will offer four to five times the efficiency over an electric-only heating system. However they do not function well when the outside air temperature is forty degrees or less.
Hybrid Heating Systems
The hybrid heating system combines both the furnace and the heat pump for efficient heating across a wide variety of conditions. When the outside temperature is very low the furnace can take over heating duties and warm even the coldest of winter air. In milder weather the heat pump can provide the heating needed without blasting high temperature air through the ductwork causing uncomfortable, rapid fluctuations in temperature.
Properly setup, the hybrid system can pay for itself through saving on natural gas or propane within a timeframe of about three to five years.
Not every home will benefit from a hybrid system however. Each home has unique needs depending on its layout, available utilities, and climate it is located in. If you would like to find out what system is best for you, call us today and one of our trained professionals at Fire & Ice HVAC would be glad to assist you!
When shopping for a new central heating unit there are a number of variables that will affect the total cost of the project. From the type of heating, to the brand of unit, to how much labor is involved.
Adding up the Costs for Central Heating
Whether you’re purchasing a heating system for a new home, or looking to upgrade an old, failing system, the first step is to examine your budget. Depending on the work done, the costs can add up quickly. To begin with, decide what kind of heating system you want. Is it gas? Oil? Heat pump? Each of these has their own advantages and disadvantages depending on where you live and what utilities are available to you. Generally speaking, they all run about the same per unit, with some minor variation. Expect to pay between 2,000-5,000 dollars for a new unit, no matter the type. Some will run a little less, some slightly more, but that’s a good starting point. Remember that a high efficiency unit can command a premium of one to two-thousand dollars.
The next major factor is your ductwork. If it is possible to utilize the existing ductwork, that is going to save you an immense amount of money. Some ductwork is compatible with certain furnaces and not others. Some ductwork may contain asbestos if your house was built midcentury and a little after. Your installer will let you know beforehand if they can utilize what is available or will have to put in all new ductwork – or any customer venting you want done. Installing new ductwork can run between as little as $4,000 all the way up to $20,000 depending on what needs to be done.
When discussing a new furnace with the installers, be sure to ask about debris and trash removal and if a building permit is needed. Some jurisdictions require a permit, and others do not.
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When shopping for a new home heating system, there are certain factors you should consider carefully. These factors include:
Cost, in this case, refers to the amount of money you are willing to spend to install a new heating unit. In general, the cost of installing new home heating systems ranges from $1,000 to $3,500. Expect to fork an extra $500 to $1,000 if you want install a high efficiency heating system. With this in mind, purchase a heating system that makes sense in relation to your home heating expenses. This means you should purchase a heating system with the highest heating efficiency possible if your home heating costs are high. In this case, cost is justifiable considering the energy savings benefit alone.
Home Heating Costs
Besides the cost of a heating unit, consider your home heating costs as well. You can easily calculate an approximate figure by deducting summer home heating costs from winter heating costs. Add these expenses throughout the year to determine your annual heating costs. Use this information to determine the financial implications of purchasing an expensive heating unit with a high AFUE rating versus a cheaper unit with lower AFUE rating. To understand this better, assume you spend $500 on home heating bills. If you install a heating unit with AFUE rating of 80%, your annual savings would be about $125 (25 cents per dollar). In comparison, you would save about $175 (35 cents per dollar) annually if you installed a heating system with a higher AFUE rating of 93%.
Check the AFUE rating of heating units. Manufacturers of heating units give efficiency ratings figures as percentages. A high AFUE rating generally translates to better heating efficiency. According to the Federal Appliance Energy Standards of 1993, heating units should have AFUE ratings of at least 80%. Thanks to technological advances, the efficiency of some heating units is as high as 96%.
Some of the key factors to consider when shopping for a new heating unit include cost, heating efficiency rating, and home heating costs. In addition, hire a qualified and licensed (Contractors State Licensing Board licensure) contractor to carry out the installation.
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Homeowners who are looking at indoor heating options often encounter terms like single stage heating and two-stage heating. These simply refer to the type of furnace that powers a home. While single stage heating and cooling systems are popular, a two-stage system is becoming the ideal option due to a number of reasons.
What is two-stage heating?
Two-stage heating refers to the type of HVAC system that comes with two levels of heat and cooling output. This means that they are more flexible because they can operate low for milder days and high when the temperatures drop during cold winter months.
Advantages of a two-stage heating system
The main advantage of a two-stage heating furnace is efficiency. This system usually operates at 65% of the furnace’s full capacity in most climates. When the temperatures drop to very low during the cold winter months, the second stage takes over to satisfy the additional heating requirements of the home.
A two-stage system is also quieter than other types since it does not operate at full capacity all of the time. This is because the furnace starts operation when the amount of cool or warm air required to cool or heat up the home is lower. This type of system is also able to provide continuous heating and cooling without temperature fluctuations. These systems have efficient temperature regulation to ensure that no drastic temperature changes occur during the night. The way the system operates also lowers the moisture content in the air because of longer cooling cycles. This results to an even flow of dry air which prevents the growth of mold and mildew.
Finally, the system facilitates more efficient air filtration especially when it is running at low speed. Constant current of air passing through the air filters allow the filtration of more pollutants for cleaner indoor air.
Modern heating and cooling systems operate using multi-stage technology to save on heating and cooling costs. A more efficient operation, lower noise levels and improved air quality make two-stage heating a great option for any home.
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With winter around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about heating. Energy prices are constantly on the rise, leaving many to reconsider their options. Based on national averages, the least expensive option is natural gas, with electricity being the costliest. Older heating systems are likely to be less efficient than modern equipment, making it a viable reason to upgrade. Switching to a different fuel source may cost more at the point of purchase, but can pay for itself within 10 years, when considering the savings that come with choosing a cheaper and more effective type of energy.
Geothermal heat pumps are excellent option, which will also take up to ten years to repay, after considering the 30% federal tax credit issued to homeowners. Such a system will use the temperature of the earth to heat and cool the home to reduce home heating costs.
A homeowner can improve the efficiency of the current system and still benefit from some energy savings. We recommend sealing the ducts. Up to 40% of conditioned air can seep through leaky ducts! This isn’t a DIY job, so it requires hiring a professional, as newer techniques, known as Aerosealing, are used today. The costs will be offset by the hundreds of dollars of savings to be enjoyed year after year, once sealing is completed. This technology blows tiny sealant particles into the ducts, allowing them to bond completely over leaks. It’s not an inexpensive undertaking, but the savings could be as high as $850 each year following the application.
Be sure to take care of drafts by doing a simple incense stick test. With all the exhaust fans on, simply hold the stick close to doors, windows, and even electrical outlets. Use weatherstripping, caulking, or other such solutions to plug these leaks and cut down on energy consumption.
Service the heating system every year by a qualified and certified contractor. For homeowners with forced air systems, ensure filters are frequently changed throughout the season. If registers are blocked with furniture pieces, the interference can drastically affect the temperature in the given room.
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When looking for a heating unit, most people get confused on whether to buy a heat pump or furnace. There are several types of furnaces and heat pumps you can buy. These two units have several features that make them different.
The main difference between a furnace and heat pump is in what they do. Furnaces can only heat while electrical heat pumps can function as both heaters and air conditioners. Electrical heat pumps use refrigerants and can heat cold air or cool hot air. When you buy a heater, you will have invested in a single unit that will control the temperatures in your home all year round.
Fuels Used by Heaters Vs. Furnaces
Most heat pumps use electricity to produce energy while furnaces rely on some type of fuel. The common furnace fuels are fuel oil, coal, wood, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas. In the U.S., majority of homes use natural gas furnaces. However, heat pumps are more popular than furnaces mostly because natural gas is not easily available all across the country.
Backing Up Electric Heat With Gas
In areas where temperatures can go below 40 degrees, most homes add gas backup to their heat pumps. At such low temperatures, heat pumps become less efficient and thus the need to back them up with gas pumps. Gas produces energy more efficiently at lower temperatures. If you already have a heater, a professional heating and cooling company can add gas backup for better heat during harsh winters.
Cost of Heater vs. Furnace
Heat pumps are generally more expensive to buy than furnaces. However, the pumps are cheaper to operate in the long run. You will need to hire a licensed heating and air contractor company to install either a heater or furnace.
Most modern furnaces burn fuels clean and efficiently. However, heat pumps have air filters that produce clean air in the home. You should get the filters changed regularly for optimal operations.
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A furnace that is working properly does not consume excessive energy or increase the utility bills unreasonably. Additionally, such a furnace gives the desired output (heating) without endangering people’s health, lives or properties. You can easily identify some of the furnace warning signs that imply your furnace is not functioning properly. Noticing such signs on time, can help you correct the problem or call a licensed HVAC technician to correct the problems.
Warning Signs of a furnace in distress
Odor, sound and flame
Red flags over a failing furnace include odors, sounds, sparks and flames that are not common to what your furnace usually exhibits. Such sounds, smells, odors or sparks may be an indication of worn out parts, loose nuts or nozzles, inadequately lubricated parts and the presence of unwanted materials near the furnace. Detecting such irregularities should alert you of not only an inefficiently functioning furnace, but also the potential danger that could emanate from overheating, fires, obstructed airflow and gas poisoning.
Abrupt or regular breakdowns
Your furnace should never go off or switch on without your manual or automatic regulation. Regular or one-off occurrences of such incidences should alert you that there is a problem with your furnace. If you can, rectify the problem, but if you cannot, have your local HVAC technicians have a look at your furnace or thermostat.
How to check for warning signs of a furnace
Switch on the furnace, if electrical, and listen to its sounds. Rattling, knocking, creaking, screeching or shaking sounds, as well as the smell of burning metal or wires indicate faulty parts. Furnaces do not function optimally with broken or faulty parts. Light your gas, coal, oil or wood furnace and, in addition to listening for weird sounds, try to detect funny smells. Try to locate the source of the sounds or smells, and contact an HVAC technician to fix it if you cannot fix the problem. Schedule regular furnace inspection; it might pick-up small problems/ faults, with some of your furnace’s parts, which could escalate if not corrected on time.
Identifying early signs that your furnace is in trouble can help you or your HVAC contractor fix those problems in an attempt to prevent an abrupt malfunction of your furnace. In addition to regular and professional inspection of your furnace, watch out for warning signs such as strange odors or noises. Call your local HVAC Contractors for heating system and furnace service.