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

It’s Time for a New Furnace

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Replacing your furnace is probably not something you want to think about. After all, a new furnace is a big investment and not something you probably have too much experience with. And sometimes having your current system fixed or tuned up is all you need to get your home heating situation back on track. But there are certain situations in which it makes more sense to just go ahead and get a new furnace rather than simply patching up the old one.

For instance, if you have to call for either minor or major repairs to your furnace on a regular basis, it’s probably time to consider investing in a replacement. All of those repairs cost money and chances are that the furnace you’re paying repeatedly to replace isn’t going to last that much longer anyway.

Rather than continuing to dump money into a furnace that just isn’t cutting it anymore, you’ll be better off making the investment in a new unit. The truth is, you’re going to have to do it sooner or later and by buying a new furnace now, you’re actually saving all of the money you would have spent on repairing the old one for another year or so.

Also, a furnace that requires such frequent repairs is probably not functioning all that efficiently either. When you replace it with a newer model, you won’t just save money on repairs. You’ll also likely notice a considerable savings on your monthly energy bills because of how much more efficient your new model is.

Even if you haven’t been repairing your furnace often, you may be able to notice some signs that the old unit isn’t quite up to the task anymore. If you’re suddenly having some significant humidity problems in your house or if your home isn’t being heated evenly, there’s a good chance your furnace is on its way out.

And, in fact, even if your furnace is functioning just fine but is more than 10 years old or so, it’s very likely you’d benefit by replacing it. That’s because the newer furnaces available now are so much more energy efficient than their predecessors that the savings you’ll incur monthly will quickly make up for the initial installation investment.

Of course, you don’t want to get rid of a good furnace if you don’t have to. But if your furnace is getting close to the end of its expected lifespan, you may very well benefit by putting out the money for a new one now so you can start saving right away on your monthly energy bills.

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How Efficient Is a Heat Pump?

Wednesday, April 27th, 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.

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How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Monday, April 25th, 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.

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When Should You Replace Your Existing Heat Pump?

Friday, April 22nd, 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.

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Most Commonly Asked Questions about Heat Pumps

Wednesday, April 20th, 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.

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Heat Pump and Zoning or Zone Control Systems

Monday, April 18th, 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.

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Turn that Thermostat Down a Degree and Save Money

Friday, April 15th, 2011

There are literally dozens of things you can do to cut back on your heating (and cooling) costs. These range from things like getting a high energy efficiency system to just making sure that you have adequate insulation in all parts of your house. But too many people overlook one of the simplest things that you can do to cut down on your monthly heating bill, and that is to turn the thermostat down.

Of course, you did not pay for that high tech home comfort system just so that you could walk around cold all winter long. You certainly want to keep your house at a temperature that is comfortable, but what does that really mean?

The normal default setting for a home heating system is usually somewhere between 72°F and 75°F. If you have your thermostat set somewhere in this range in the winter, you are probably quite comfortable indoors. In fact, you might not even need a sweater. But would you really notice if it was a degree or two cooler? Would it be incredibly inconvenient to put on a sweater or sweatshirt after all?

The truth is that most of us will be just as comfortable at 69°F as we are at 72°F, and the effect that small adjustment can have on your heating bill is actually pretty significant. In fact, you will save an average of 3% on your monthly bill for every degree you turn your thermostat down. Drop the temperature down by three or four degrees and that will give you up to a 10% monthly savings – hardly something to turn up your nose at.

And setting the regular temperature in your house a bit lower is not the only way your thermostat settings can save you money. You will also save quite a bit if you take the time to turn down the temperature when you leave the house and when you go to bed at night. There simply is no reason to pay to heat your house when you are not there and you will certainly be rewarded with a lower energy bill for your efforts.

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What is a Whole House Fan?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Cooling your home is a big deal. Especially if the temperature in your home is generally very high in the summer, the cost of air conditioning is tremendous. A central air conditioner can cost between $2,000 and $4,000 to run for an average 2,800 square foot home over the course of six months. That’s a lot of electricity just to stay cool.

That’s why a whole house fan is a great option for those that want to forego the use of direct air conditioning for at least part of the year.

What It Does

A whole house fan is different from a standard air conditioner because it doesn’t use a heat exchanger to remove heat from air before it enters your home. That heat exchanger is the culprit for a large percentage of an air conditioner’s energy consumption. A whole house fan can be used when the temperature outside is lower than inside, a common occurrence on moderate days in the summer.

The whole house fan draws air and then cycles it through your air vents without cooling it. The act of moving air through your home, however, is often enough to cool the space to a comfortable level. The size of your whole house fan depends on quite a few things. First, how big is your home? Large homes that require even cooling need a larger fan to draw in air. However, small homes can often get away with models that use as little as 120 Watts of electricity. That’s less than your computer uses.

Choosing a Fan for Your Home

Keep in mind that a whole house fan only works when the temperature outside is lower than inside. If the air outside is excessively humid or if it is very warm in the hottest months of summer, you will still need an air conditioning unit. But, even if you run your air conditioner for two months out of the year, you’ll save a tremendous amount of money in the other four months by operating a whole house fan.

Whole house fans should be used in conjunction with an effective air purification system to ensure all outdoor contaminants are effectively removed before they are cycled through your house. They also require the same level of maintenance and cleaning as a normal AC system. However, with the right care, they work wonders to cut down on your energy bill.

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How Often Do You Change Your Filters?

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The core component of any good air quality system is the filter. A good air filter removes almost all of the particles that inundate your home every day – from the pet dander that flakes off of your cats or dogs to the pollen released by plants both indoors and out.

But many homeowners are not aware of when they should change the filters in their air quality system. They know it should be done regularly, but how often and when do you ignore the manufacturer’s recommendation to ensure higher quality air?

Know Your Home

The first thing to consider is the size of your home and what types of contaminants you must deal with each day. Air testing helps with this, as does regular cleaning of the areas around your air filter, including your ductwork. If you don’t have any pets and don’t keep any plants inside, your biggest air quality issue is likely dust, and dust will only fill up the filters quickly if you have a large family.

However, if you have a lot of pets, multiple plants and a large family, the odds are that your filter is being put through the ringer every day – asked to filter out a tremendous number of contaminants. This is when you might need to change the filter more often.

Changing Your Filter

If you have a high quality HEPA filter, it’ll probably work for as long as it’s rated. Only lower quality filters or those not large enough for the space in which they are installed will fail early. However, keep in mind that a HEPA filter, even when it can last longer, should always be changed no later than the manufacturer’s recommended date.

For most homes that timeframe is about 6 months. However, some higher quality filters can last as long as 12 or even 18 months in the right conditions. If you use your air filter in conjunction with an air purifier, you should also have the cartridges changed out at the same time as your filter.

If you think you are changing your filters too often, you can always have your air tested to determine if the contaminants in your home require less filtration. Some home have filters larger than they need installed or lower grade filters that get changed too often unnecessarily. As long as your family is safe and healthy, you might as well try to save some money.

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Heat Recovery Ventilator – What Is It and When Do You Need It?

Friday, April 8th, 2011

While the design of modern homes is to retain as much energy as possible while minimizing the cost of heating and cooling, that very design can have a negative impact on your indoor air quality. Because air cannot pass freely between indoor and outdoor environments, you are stuck breathing the same air day after day.

Luckily, there are t options that will exchange the heat in your indoor air to the outdoor air as it enters your home. In effect, you can retain all of the heat your home produces each day before it leaves the house. It works equally well in the summer to retain the cooled air your air conditioning units produce.

How Heat Recovery Works

Heat recovery ventilators come in many forms, including simple ventilation, heat exchange, or air exchanging. There are even some indoor heat pumps that will carefully draw heat from the air as it’s removed from your home and recirculate it through your air ducts.

The idea is the same no matter how the system is installed. As air leaves your home through a ventilator, a counter-flow heat exchanger transfers energy between the air leaving and entering your home. So, instead of warm air leaving and cold air entering, the air coming into your home takes the heat from the air leaving your home. Air comes and goes, but heat stays inside.

In the summer, the same system works in reverse to remove heat from the air coming into your home and keep it outside. The one thing to keep in mind with a heat recovery ventilator is that it doesn’t retain the humidity in your home as an energy recovery ventilator would. If you live in an area with very high or very low humidity during summer or winter, an ERV may be a better solution for your needs.

Air Quality Benefits

The goal of a good heat recovery ventilator is not just to retain the heated or cooled air in your home. It is also to ensure you have clean, fresh air to breathe each day. Most people don’t realize, but when you don’t circulate your air and your home is sealed up with enhanced weather-stripping and high quality insulation, unwanted contaminants begin to build up. A heat recovery ventilator makes sure you not only get fresh air, but that it’s properly filtered and the heat or cooling your comfort system produces is retained. No money is lost, energy is saved, and your family stays comfortable and healthy – everyone wins.

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