All heat pumps are not created equal. When looking for a new heating or air conditioning system, there are several different factors you should consider.
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With a cost-effective and dependable heat pump, you can rest-assured that your energy bills will be much lower and your heating/cooling system will require much less maintenance. Your system will keep your home at the climate that is most comfortable for you and your family. So sit back, set your thermostat and enjoy.??
How Does a Heat Pump Work
A heat pump is used not only to heat your home in the winter but also to cool your home in the summer. It does not use an electrical element or burn fuel to produce heat, but uses the same principle as a refrigerator and air conditioner, which is the Freon evaporation cycle. A heat pump system combined with a natural gas or propane furnace allows you to switch to the cheapest heat source depending on the market prices.
Heat Pump System Terms
- HSPF: The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor is a measure of the heating efficiency of a heat pump. The higher the HSPF number, the more efficiently the heat pump heats your home.
- SEER: SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is the measure of efficiency by which the cooling process of air conditioners and heat pumps is rated. The higher the SEER rating, the greater the efficiency – and therefore greater energy savings.
- Refrigerant: R-410a (also known as Puron) is an environmentally-sound refrigerant designed to not harm the earth’s ozone layer. Federal law requires that all manufacturers phase out R-22 (better known as Freon) and other ozone-depleting refrigerants in the next few years. R-410a refrigerant is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a replacement for R-22.
- Standard Blower: A standard blower delivers a specified amount of air flow based on a tap setting.
- Variable-Speed Blower: A high efficiency blower that is designed to deliver a varying amount of air flow based on the desired outcome. These blowers increase the effectiveness of humidification, dehumidification, air filtration and balance of air flow.
- Humidification: This is the process of adding moisture to the air by using a whole house humidifier. During the winter months, heated air can make your house too dry. Adding moisture protects your furnishings and reduces static electricity. Coupling a humidifier to a variable-speed blower gives you the ability to manage your humidity to the exact level you would like.
- Dehumidification Mode: The process of varying air flow and compressor operation can allow certain air conditioning applications to manage exact indoor humidity levels.??
- Electric Heat Staging: The ability to bring the electric back-up heat in stages as opposed to coming on all at once.
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Frequently Asked Heat Pump Questions and Answers
Why is my heat pump blowing cold air?
Because a person’s body temperature is 98.6 degrees, a heat pump running at a normal 90 degrees may feel cold to the touch. Even though this is cold to the touch, it is sufficient to heat your home to 70 degrees. As long as your thermostat is registering normally, your system is most likely running normally.
Does my heat pump have an emergency heat setting?
Most likely. However, because emergency heat is a powerful source of heat and very expensive, it is typically only used if an outdoor pump has failed. Should you set the heat to the ‘E’ setting, the emergency heat will come on automatically.
What can I do to protect/clean my outdoor unit?
Trim plants and bushes around the unit to provide at least twelve (12) inches of clearance for air flow. Keep pets away from the outdoor unit, as the acid in pet urine is a corrosive that will deteriorate the metal. Have the unit services annually to maintain cleanliness and ensure proper air flow.
My electric bill was sky high. What could this mean?
If the electric rates haven’t increased during that time period and you aren’t experiencing a colder than normal winter, this could indicate a problem with your system. Contained within the air handler on your heat pump system is a set of electric heaters that serve as a back up to your outdoor unit during the winter months. If the outdoor unit isn’t working properly, the electric heaters will run more frequently in order to meet the heating demand of the home. There are also controls involved with the operation of the electric heaters that may be malfunctioning and allowing the heaters to remain on even though there is no requirement for their operation.
Do I need to repair or replace my comfort system?
In making this decision, there are three factors to consider:
Life Expectancy of Current System:: The first thing to take into account is the age of your equipment. When your equipment breaks down, you may be tempted to go the immediate, least expensive route of repairing. However, should your equipment be getting up there in age, it is more likely that repairs will be frequent and it may actually be more cost efficient in the long run to replace the equipment instead of paying for many repairs…and then paying for the replacement.
Operating Cost:: As equipment ages, it becomes less and less efficient. Even six-year old heat pumps and air conditioners are considered grossly inefficient by today’s energy standards. Repairing your equipment may fix the immediate problem, but does not address energy efficiency so that needs to be factored into overall costs. Installing a new heating and cooling system can actually pay for itself in energy savings within a relatively short time.
Looking at the Big Picture:: Although you may be tempted to only address the broken down component, make sure to all components of your system as they all work together to boost efficiency and reliability. For example, should you replace your furnace with a new model but leave the old thermostat, you are missing out on efficiencies of the newer furnace. In addition, you can save on installation costs if you upgrade several components at the same time.
Common mistakes made when replacing your comfort system?
Buying The Wrong Size Equipment:: The Department of Energy states that a large percentage of people who replace their heating and air conditioning systems end up installing the wrong size equipment. The results are scary: high utility bills, buildup of unhealthy mold in the ductwork, damaged equipment and uncomfortable living conditions. This can easily be avoided by making sure you get an accurate load calculation from your contractor. The load calculation is determined by your home’s physical characteristics and takes into account your family’s personal needs. This, along with a detailed system analysis, will correctly verify the proper size equipment needed for your home.
Choosing the Lowest Price:: If you get a bid that is significantly lower than the others, it’s probably too good to be true. It’s good to remember that sometimes, you get what you pay for. Essentially every contractor is installing the same heating and air conditioning equipment and in many cases the only difference is the name on the outside of the equipment…not the price of the equipment. Also, there are laws that regulate how systems are installed so when bids are lower, you are saving on installation costs vs. equipment costs. That begs the questions, are the technicians qualified? Are they taking any shortcuts? Are they leaving anything out? Are they cutting corners just to get the work?
Installation Delays:: You shouldn’t have to wait days for a heating and air conditioning estimate or even longer to have your system installed. A lot of companies hire helpers or high school co-op students to work with mechanics. Because mechanics don’t specialize in installing any particular type of system and they lack support, installations can be delayed.
Using Untrustworthy and Unqualified Contractors:: Choosing the right contractor can mean the difference between having a horribly, expensive experience you’ll never forget and an experience you can’t wait to share with friends and family. Here are some steps to take to make sure you choose the right contractor for you:
- Research. Doing a little homework on the work to be performed will set you up for success in choosing the right contractor for your job. You don’t need to become a technical expert, but a little research will help you ask the right questions and be able to assess the contractor’s answers and experience.
- Get 3 – 4 contractor referrals from people you know and trust. Referrals from the people you know and have had hands on experience from the contractor goes a lot further than references from people you don’t know. You are more likely to get both positive and negative feedback from people you know.
- After identifying a few prospects, make sure each prospect is located locally and has a physical address. Then, call the Better Business Bureau to verify the company information.
- Interview contractors. Make sure you take time to meet with each contractor and go through your list of questions.
Not Getting a Written Guarantee:: Make sure the contractor you choose stands behind the products and services they offer. If they don’t provide you with a written no-hassle, no-questions asked warranty you may not want to use them. You need to make sure the you and your family are protected from any unforeseen breakdowns. Also make sure the guarantee includes a performance guarantee, investment guarantee and a real 100% satisfaction guarantee.
What is this new environmentally friendly refrigerant?
PURON is a trademark name that represents refrigerant (R410A) and is environmentally friendly. It contains no chlorine atoms, which makes it less harmful to the environment. It is currently being introduced into the industry and is considered to be a long term alternative to current refrigerants in use today. New equipment is currently available which contains this environmentally friendly refrigerant.