Premier Indoor Comfort Systems LLC Blog : Archive for March, 2011

Open vs. Closed Loop Systems in Geothermal

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Even people who are somewhat familiar with geothermal heating systems may not be aware that there are actually two types – open and closed loop systems. The difference, of course, is that the closed loop systems make use of a completely sealed loop of pipe filled with water, antifreeze or some combination of these that cycles through the pipe absorbing heat and transferring it to your home.

Open loop systems, on the other hand, are linked to a well casting and draw water from there to circulate throughout the system as a heat source. Particularly if you already have an appropriate well casting in place, you can often save a lot on your installation costs by putting in an open loop system rather than a closed loop.

If you do not already have a well, however, the installation of an open loop system might still be cheaper but not by as much. Also, the costs of operation after the initial installation are pretty comparable, so the relative costs associated with operating one type of system or the other should not weigh to heavily on your decision.

In fact, the best way to decide which type of geothermal heating system is right for you is to talk to an experienced contractor about your particular situation. They will be able to tell you exactly what the installation of each type of system will entail in your specific case and make informed recommendations about what type of system will work best for you.

No matter what type of geothermal heating system you do go with, though, you will be getting an excellent and inexpensive home comfort solution that will keep your indoor temperature at the right level all year round. That is because geothermal heat pumps, just like air source heat pumps, can be reversed during the warmer summer months to actually remove heat from your home. That way, you can stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter without having to pay for heating or air conditioning.

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Geothermal vs. Solar

Monday, March 28th, 2011

If you are looking for a more environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional methods for home heating, you will probably consider both solar and geothermal options. Each of these relies on a great renewable resource to function and can be an excellent option depending on your specific circumstances. Of course, both geothermal and solar heating have limitations as well, so it is important to take these into account when you are evaluating your options.

A geothermal heating system works by extracting heat from the ground and transferring that to the air in your house. This occurs when heat is absorbed by a fluid flowing through a closed loop of pipes beneath or next to your home. The fluid then returns to your home, where the heat is extracted by a compressor and distributed throughout the house by an air handler.

This uses very little energy relative to a conventional heating system, as you only have to power the condenser and the air handler. The heat is not generated by the system but merely harvested, so total energy costs are quite low. However, the installation cost of a geothermal heating system can be many times what a conventional heating system would cost.

Solar heating relies on solar collectors to gather the heat from the sun. This heat is then passed into a system of heat pumps and heat exchangers so that it can be adequately distributed throughout your house. The installation of heat collectors, of course, is quite expensive as well, while the cost of running the system is generally low just as with the geothermal heat pump.

One advantage to opting for a solar heating system is that you can lease the equipment rather than buying it in some areas. This means that you do not have to pay the high installation costs and only pay a monthly fee to use the equipment which is usually comparable to what an average heating bill would be if you had a furnace.

But you also have to keep in mind that you need to have enough space to put up an adequate number of solar collectors to keep your house warm all winter. This often means giving up a lot of land, and if you have a lot, that is fine. But it is still something you need to take into consideration. Also, you need to make sure that the area you live in gets enough direct sunlight to make solar heating a viable option. Otherwise, you will be paying to run a backup system much of the time anyway.

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What Is a Water Source Heat Pump?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

A water source heat pump operates much like a traditional air source heat pump except that it extracts and dissipates heat by way of water instead of air. This is certainly not a type of home comfort system that will be available to anyone, but if you live in an area close to a well, lake or other natural water source, it may be an option worth considering.

All types of heat pumps can provide excellent year round home temperature control by pumping heat in during the winter months and removing it during the summer. The main difference between the types of heat pumps is where they get the heat or dispose of it.

Traditional air source heat pumps get their heat from the air outside, as even relatively cold air actually contains a substantial amount of heat. They use this heat to keep your house warm in the winter, but as the outside temperatures go down below freezing, these heat pumps can become less and less effective.

Water source heat pumps, on the other hand, work on basically the same principle as air source heat pumps, but they extract heat from a body of water rather than the air. They do this by cycling water through a system of pipes that is laid out at the bottom of a body of water. As the water cycles through, it gathers heat from the lake or reservoir and then carries it back to your house.

In the summer, the process is reversed and heat is carried out of your house and expelled in the cooler water outside. Like air source heat pumps, water source heat pumps are slightly more efficient at cooling rather than heating, as even deep water will eventually get cold during the winter months. However, the water is still often warmer than the air, and so water source heat pumps can be a good alternative if you live in a slightly cooler climate.

Of course, you do also need to have access to an appropriate body of water to have a water source heat pump installed, which makes it something that is not available to everyone. But if you do live near such a body of water, a water source heat pump is definitely something worth considering.

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How Much Will a High Efficiency Furnace Save Me?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The furnaces you can buy these days are all much more energy efficient than those available even 10 years ago. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the current models are created equal. There is still a pretty big variation when it comes to energy efficiency and when it comes to price, so you need to really know what you’re looking for if you want to get the best deal out there.

The first thing you should understand when you’re trying to pick out a furnace is how energy efficiency for this type of equipment it measured. All furnaces come with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating that reflects just exactly how energy efficient they are.

Any furnace you buy today will have an AFUE of at least 80%, but it’s possible to purchase models with AFUEs of 97% or more. Of course, energy efficiency is generally a good thing, but there are some other things to consider when you’re trying to decide just how energy efficient you need your new furnace to be.

What this calculation really comes down to is how much you’ll be able to save monthly and annually with a higher efficiency furnace. While your heating bills will certainly be lower the higher the furnace’s efficiency is, you will also pay more up front for the highest efficiency models.

This higher purchase price may be worth it, however, if you live in an area with particularly harsh winters. If your heating load is very high and you’ll be using your furnace a lot, your monthly savings will make up for the higher initial price of the high efficiency furnace in a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters and you won’t be demanding a whole lot of your furnace, then the amount you’ll save each month with the highest efficiency models really won’t add up to much.

Keep in mind that a furnace with an 80% AFUE is still quite efficient and will almost certainly save you a considerable amount monthly when compared to the unit you’re currently using. And because 80% AFUE furnaces are so much cheaper than those with upper 90% AFUE ratings, they often wind up as the more cost effective alternative overall.

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Downflow Gas Furnace Tips

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Proper care of a downflow gas furnace starts with proper installation and continues through routine cleaning and maintenance. But before you can even have a downflow gas furnace installed, you need to make sure it’s the right fit for your home.

Downflow gas furnaces are so named because of the direction that air flows through them. The cooler air is taken in at the top and directed downward, heating up as it travels, and then is expelled through the bottom of the furnace into ducts that feed the rest of the house. Because of this configuration, downflow gas furnaces are typically installed in attics as opposed to basements.

If you have a basement and you’d rather install your furnace there, then an upflow furnace is probably the better choice for you. However, as many newer homes don’t have basements at all, downflow gas furnaces are growing in popularity and usefulness.

As with any other furnace, it’s important to have a downflow gas furnace professionally installed. This will ensure that the venting system is properly in place and that your house will be heated as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Of course, there are some other things you can do to help your furnace heat your home and keep your energy bills down. For instance, make sure you have proper insulation everywhere, particularly in the attic and crawlspaces where much of the normal heat loss in a home occurs.

You can also make your home more airtight in the winter by sealing up any unused windows and doors with plastic and making sure all storm windows are in place. Basically anyplace that a draft could develop, you could be losing heat and that costs you money. So to ensure that all of the money you’re spending to heat your house is actually going to that purpose, check periodically to make sure your home is still sealed up tight.

Also, just like any other type of furnace, a downflow gas furnace will require regular maintenance to make sure it continues to run efficiently and to replace any parts that may have worn out over time. Having a professional technician come out once a year to carry out this type of service will wind up saving you a bunch of money and can help catch problems before they are able to get out of hand.

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Cleaning the Heating Coil: It Can Save You Repairs Later

Friday, March 18th, 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.

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