A heat pump is an all-in-one heating and air conditioning system that works year-round to keep you comfortable. During warmer months, a heat pump works as a normal air conditioner. It extracts heat from inside the home and transfers it to the outdoor air. In colder weather, however, the process reverses—the unit collects heat from the outdoor air and transferring it inside your home.
Even when the air outside feels extremely cold, the air still contains some heat. The heat pump pulls the heat from this cold outdoor air and sends it inside to warm your home. When there’s not enough heat in the outside air to meet the demand of the thermostat setting, an electric heater supplements the outdoor air to warm the home. Extremely efficient, this process produces two to three times more heat than the energy it uses.
Also, a heat pump can be an effective add-on option to use in conjunction with an existing gas furnace. With this dual-fuel option, the two systems share the heating load, but never function at the same time. Each system operates when it is most cost effective. The heat pump will be the primary heating and cooling system. However, when the temperature drops below the heat pump’s ability to operate as efficiently as the gas furnace, the gas furnace will take over until the temperature rises enough for the heat pump to operate more efficiently.
Two-stage heating means the furnace has two levels of heat output: high for cold winter days and low for milder days. Since the low setting is adequate to meet household heating demands 80% of the time, a two-stage unit runs for longer periods and provides more even heat distribution.
Longer, low-capacity operation has many advantages:
Consistent comfort – Two-stage heating eliminates the temperature swings associated with standard furnaces, regulating temperature to within as little as one degree of the thermostat setting.
Quiet operation – Two-stage furnaces start in the first stage, when the amount of heat required is lower, instead of reaching full capacity all at once. That means there’s no sudden “kick” or blast of air.
Improved air filtration – Low-speed operation allows your filters to capture more contaminants (because air is constantly passing through them), so you can breathe easier.
Efficient performance – Because the furnace operates mostly in its lower-capacity first stage, it burns less fuel than a standard furnace that always runs at full capacity and shuts off when the heating demand has been met.
Furnaces are rated by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratio, which is the percent of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed.
Like the miles-per-gallon rating on your automobile, the higher the AFUE rating, the lower your fuel costs. All furnaces manufactured today must meet at least 78% AFUE. If your furnace is 10 – 15 years old, it very well may fall below the current furnace minimum and waste energy.
This doesn’t mean that you should only select a furnace based on its AFUE rating. The efficiency rating is just one factor to consider when looking for a new furnace.
Furnaces use electricity to run fans and motors. The amount of electricity used varies greatly depending on the type of furnace. Be sure to check electricity usage prior to making a purchase decision.
What is a variable speed furnace? The term “variable speed” refers to the furnace’s indoor blower motor, which moves at different speeds to precisely control the flow of heated and cooled air throughout your home. Better airflow control has several benefits:
- Electrical efficiency
- Cooling efficiency
- Air quality
- Humidity control
A zoning system is designed for the many ways you use your home. Maybe you’re caught up in family “thermostat wars?” Or perhaps you have unoccupied areas that do not need conditioning? A zoning system allows you to divide your home into separate areas, giving you the comfort and control you’ve always wanted.
The main benefits of residential zoning are:
Comfort – Zoning meets the specific temperature and airflow requirements of one area, without affecting other areas.
Efficiency – A properly designed zoning system can save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs each year.
Control – Zoning divides the home into different areas and comfort into different levels, giving you more choices and control than ever before.
Quiet Performance – When integrated with variable speed and/or two-stage HVAC systems, zoning allows your heating and cooling equipment to deliver peak performance and efficiency without continually operating at peak capacity. Lower speeds mean lower sound levels.
An air conditioner seems as if it cools your home’s air, but it actually makes your home less warm by removing heat from the indoor air and transferring that heat to the outdoor air.
Heat is extracted from the home by passing indoor air across a refrigerant coil in the indoor unit. Refrigerant lines then carry the heat to the outdoor unit, where it is released into the outside air. The cooling cycle continues until the indoor temperature reaches the thermostat setting.
“Variable speed” refers to the fan motor inside the air handler—the indoor part of an air conditioner that moves cooled or heated air throughout the ductwork of your home. An air handler is usually a furnace or a blower coil.
Unlike conventional single-speed motors, a variable speed motor runs at a wide range of speeds to precisely control of heated and cooled air throughout the home. Better airflow control has several benefits:
Electrical efficiency – Variable speed motors can actually save you money on your energy bills, as they consume less electricity than standard motors.
Cooling efficiency – Variable speed technology also means you will gain air conditioning efficiency or SEER.
Zoning – Variable speed motors are excellent for zoning, which allows you to customize your comfort in different areas of your home and control your energy bills.
Air quality – A variable speed motor can also help clean the air in your home. When the fan is in constant operation (indicated by the “Fan” setting on your thermostat), the motor will continue to slowly circulate air, allowing filters to capture more contaminants.
Humidity control – A variable speed motor combined with a Thermostat allows you to control the amount of humidity in your home for improved indoor air quality and comfort.
Two-stage cooling means the air conditioner or heat pump has a compressor with two levels of operation: high for hot summer days and low for milder days. Since the low setting is adequate to meet household-cooling demands 80% of the time, a two-stage unit runs for longer periods and produces more even temperatures.
Longer cooling cycles also translate to quieter, more efficient operation and enhanced humidity control. Compared to a single-stage unit, a two-stage air conditioner or heat pump can remove twice as much moisture from the air. This is important because when moisture levels are high, there’s a higher potential for mold and other pollutant problems.
The only reliable way to determine the size that best matches the needs of your home is to have your local Dealer perform a load calculation, which takes into account the square footage of your house, the insulation value of your windows, the amount of insulation in your walls and roof and many other factors.
There are several factors that can cause system freezing.
One thing you can do to prevent or correct this problem is to make sure the filter is clean or replaced. You can check to see if airflow is restricted.
Dirty filter – After replacing or cleaning the, you can speed up the thawing process by turning the system off and turning on the fan. If you have a heat pump system, you can try turning the system to heating mode until the ice has melted. After the ice has melted, switch the system settings back to normal. If the system refreezes, contact us to correct the problem.
Low refrigerant – In some cases, freezing is caused by a leak in the refrigerant lines. Weak solder joints, friction from piping rubbing or vibrating against an object, open valves or loose fittings are all factors that can cause leaks. When determining whether to have the system repaired or replaced, the age of the system and the nature and location of the leak are important considerations.
Dirty evaporator coil – Over time, the evaporator coil will become dirty. When this happens, you will begin to lose airflow, slowly enough that you probably would not realize it until it freezes up or cooling performance is compromised. At this point, you will need to contact us to correct the problem.
Defective blower motor or relay – A blower motor not running at the proper speed or not running at all is another factor that can cause freezing. Motor operation may be intermittent, starting at full speed and slowing down after it heats up. Or, a relay could cause it to start one time and not the next. In either case, you will need to contact us to correct the problem.
SEER is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is a measure of an air conditioner’s efficiency over the entire cooling season. A higher SEER denotes higher efficiency.
When buying an air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency. Central air conditioners are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label for central air conditioners with SEER ratings of 13 or greater, but consider using air conditioning equipment with higher SEER ratings for greater savings.
New residential central air conditioner standards went into effect on January 23, 2006. Air conditioners manufactured after January 26, 2006 must achieve a SEER of 13 or higher. SEER 13 is 30% more efficient than the previous minimum SEER of 10. The standard applies only to appliances manufactured after January 23, 2006. Equipment with a rating less than SEER 13 manufactured before this date may still be sold and installed.
You wouldn’t buy a brand-new car and expect to never have to put air in the tires, change the oil and check out any unusual noises, would you? In the same way that an automobile requires periodic maintenance for optimal performance, a home comfort system should be regularly inspected by a qualified technician
Protecting that investment is likely one of your top priorities.
Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality deals with the content of interior air that could affect health and comfort of building occupants.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, items inside the home that release gas are the primary cause of indoor air problems. The list includes carpeting, upholstered furniture, gas appliances, paints and solvents, cleaning products, air fresheners, dry-cleaned clothing and pesticides. If you have an attached garage, fumes from the gasoline, oil and antifreeze in your car can find their way into your home’s air. Harsh chemicals can also come from cigarette smoke and woodstoves.
Insufficient ventilation can worsen the problem because pollutants get trapped inside. Tightly sealed and well-insulated homes keep out fresher outdoor air, which can dilute the pollutants. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.
Techniques for analyzing IAQ include collection of air samples (Air Advice Machine), collection of samples on building surfaces and computer modeling of air flow inside buildings. The resulting samples can be analyzed for mold, bacteria, chemicals or other stressors. These investigations can lead to an understanding of the sources of the contaminants and ultimately to strategies for removing the unwanted elements from the air.
Products available to help with indoor air quality:
– Humidifiers to add moisture in the winter
– UV or Germicidal lights to improve air quality and protects equipment by sterilizing illuminated surfaces.
– High Efficiency Media Air Cleaners for removing particles and bio-aerosols ranging in size down to 1 micron.
– Seal existing ductwork to keep dust and dirt from entering your system from the attic or under your house
The ideal relative humidity in a home is 25% to 55%. This can be controlled with a digital thermostat.
Solar power has a number of substantial advantages, from economical to environmental:
Readily available. Electricity generated from sunlight is free and limitless.
In the U.S., financial incentives are available at the federal and local level to support the use of renewable energy:
Federal tax credits. The SunSource® Home Energy System meets the requirements for federal tax credits listed under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, covering 30% of the cost of the solar modules, including installation. You can also receive up to a $500 credit for the solar-ready heat pump or air conditioner that’s at the heart of the system. Get more information on our Energy-Efficient Tax Credit page.
State tax credits. According to www.dsireusa.org, there are about 47 states and 600 electric utilities across the U.S. that provide incentives for renewable-energy systems.
Utility net metering. If your utility company offers net-metering agreements, you may be able to receive a credit for any surplus power generated that’s not used in your home and is fed back to your utility company.
Solar Credit (25D) – Available through 2016
The U.S. government offers a tax credit (Solar Tax Credit, 25D) for up to 9% of the total retail cost of the solar-ready heat pump or air conditioner that’s at the heart of the SunSource® Home Energy System, when applying solar modules. Also covered under 25D, 30% of the cost with no upper limit on solar module installation.
The SunSource® Home Energy System reduces the amount of electricity needed from your utility provider to put you in control of your utility bills. This energy-saving system harnesses solar-energy and uses it first—before using electricity from the utility company—to power your air conditioner or heat pump. The solar power that’s collected can also operate other appliances and electronics when the heating and cooling system is not in use. What’s more, if the SunSource system generates more solar power than is needed, that power will be sent back to the utility company, possibly entitling homeowners to a credit.
How can I get a HVAC Tax Credit? – HVAC Credit (25C) – Available for equipment purchased and installed in 2012 – 2014
In December 2012, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, extending tax credits on high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment purchased and installed from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2014. This credit (Residential Energy Credit, 25C) covers up to 10% of cost up to $500 or a specific amount from $50 – $300 on energy-efficient improvements made in 2012-2014 on qualifying systems and is offered as part of a larger energy efficiency incentive for home improvements. If you claimed $500 or more for enhancements to your home’s exterior (windows, doors, skylights, insulation, roofing, etc.) from 2006 to 2011, your HVAC purchase made in 2012-2014 will be ineligible for a tax credit. If you claimed $500 or less, you may qualify for a credit, but you may not get the full dollar amount specified.
Claiming 2012-2014 Energy Tax Credits
You can take advantage of energy tax credits by taking three steps:
- Determine if the system you have purchased and installed between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014 is eligible by clicking on the “Get Started” link below and answering a few questions about the system. We also advise you to consult your tax expert and visit one of the following sites for full details on eligible products:
– Energy Star
– Internal Revenue Service
– U.S. Department of Energy
- Save the manufacturer’s certification statement form you will obtain and download using the “Get Started” link below.
- Use IRS form 5695 when claiming your 2012 – 2014 Residential Energy Credit.