How Does A Heat Pump Work?

heat pump

In recent years heat pumps have become increasingly common in newly constructed homes or as an add-on to older homes, but how they work is a mystery to many.  There are two types of heat pumps, those that use air and those that draw from a ground-source.  Essentially, those that use air work to pull any available heat from the cold outdoors in the winter, then by using an electrical system it distributes that heat inside the house, essentially the inverse of how an air conditioning unit works in the summer.  The heat pump is generally connected in to a forced air heating system to distribute the heat throughout the home.  Air-source heat pumps are the more common of the two heat pumps, primarily because they are cheaper to purchase and easier to install, however the ground-source heat pump is by far the more efficient option.

Homeowners who are looking to live more sustainably or those that intend to remain in their home for a long period of time should consider the more expensive ground-source heat pump.  As the name implies ground-source heat pumps get their heat from underground.  Ground temperatures are more consistent than air temperatures allowing for a higher degree of efficiency for the heat pump.  As previously stated a ground-source heat pump requires a more involved installation process and would generally only be completed by a certified HVAC professional.  Depending on the terrain, either long trenches 3-6’ deep, or vertical boreholes, will need to be dug to lay the necessary “loop” of piping.  Consumers also have the option with these systems of using groundwater to pass through the heat exchanger rather than refrigerant. That groundwater can then be returned to the aquifer.  Setting this up would be part of the standard ground-source heat pump installation.

It may initially seem counter intuitive that using electricity with the heat pump will actually be any cheaper for the homeowner than just running a standard gas heating system, however because the electricity is only being used to move heat rather than to actually generate it there will be a savings.  The heat pump definitely delivers more energy than it consumes. Because the ground temperature stays warmer than the air temperature in the winter, a ground-source (or geothermal) heat pump will be the highest level of efficiency.

A heat pump can then be reversed in the summer months to pull heat from the air inside the home and move it outside, thus further increasing its value.  Most homeowners see an energy savings of 30-40% year round after installing a heat pump.  It’s also interesting to note that the heat pumps sold today are more than 3x more efficient than those sold 30 years ago.  So if you looked at heat pumps in the past but had trouble justifying the initial cost, it might be worth giving it another consideration.

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Benefits to Flushing the Water Heater

25763704 - electric water heater hanging on the wooden wall

Most homeowners are aware that flushing the water heater is a regular maintenance requirement, but very few do it with the frequency recommended by the water heater manufacturers which is generally once per month, often it never gets done at all.  What are the real costs to not flushing the water heater and what are the benefits to getting it done?

  1. Heating Efficiency – if the water heater hasn’t been flushed for some time it will take longer for the heat transfer process between the heating elements and the water to take place. This will result in it taking longer to get more hot water and will increase the likelihood of running out of hot water.  Most customers say that they notice an immediate improvement in the amount of hot water they have after getting the tank flushed.
  2. Reduced Operational Costs – as sediment builds up in the tank it makes it more difficult for the heating elements to transfer heat to the water, which means it requires more energy to get the water to the same temperature, thus costing more money. In addition, the premature failure of components, which can result from this build up, will also increase maintenance costs of the water tank.
  3. Reduced Noise – a noisy water tank is a sign of a problem. A properly maintained tank should make very little noise.  The noisier the water tank, the more sediment has built up inside.  However, should the water tank eventually get quiet again this does not mean that the problem is resolved, in fact the opposite is true.  At this point the build-up has solidified such that water is no longer circulating properly and an immediate flush is required.
  4. Reduces Potential for Odor – if water is unable to move properly through the water tank system, either due to excessive sediment build-up or a failure of the system, then water will become stagnate. Stagnate water can lead to unpleasant odors which will only grow worse if left unattended.
  5. Ensures Warranty Protection – this is especially important during the first few months after installation while the water heater is under a manufacturer’s warranty. Very few warranties will protect against failure caused by scale or sediment build up so it’s important to be able to show that this is not the case should the water heater fail for some other reason and require warranty coverage.
  6. Increases Life of the Water Heater – the primary reason water heaters fail is a result of sediment build-up. On an electric heater this build-up can cause the electrodes to fail prematurely.  For customers with a gas heater this build up between the heat source and the water can result in additional heat being trapped at the bottom of the tank causing it to get hotter than intended which could eventually cause the metal to become so stressed that the tank leaks or fails.

The necessary frequency for flushing will vary dramatically depending on the quality of the incoming water and the type of water heater in use, however given that there’s no down side to flushing, it’s better to err on the side of over flushing to keep the system running its best.

Furnaces: Gas vs. Electric

Amana Furnace

When installing a new furnace, homeowners have to make many choices, one being the fuel-type. Deciding between gas and electric can be difficult but knowing the pros and cons of each option can help make it a little easier.

Electric Furnaces

This type of furnace pairs with the air conditioner or heat pump to distribute air throughout the home. It contains your air distribution system, indoor coil and can have heat strips that provide additional heating power.

Pros:

  • Can heat/cool home all year
  • Doesn’t require natural gas

Cons

  • Can have difficulty keeping up with heating demands
  • Creates original heat instead of transferring it

Gas Furnaces

This furnace can be paired with a split-system, air conditioner or heat pump. It has an air distribution system and creates original heat.

Pros

  • Provides powerful heat
  • Gas is often lower in cost for utilities than electricity

Cons

  • Not all homes have natural gas lines
  • Carbon monoxide is a larger concern

Choosing which one to purchase when installing a new furnace will largely depend on what type of furnace is currently in place, and what utilities are currently available in the home. Homeowners who want to switch from one of type of furnace to the other might require some additional work.

Switching from an electric furnace to a gas furnace requires natural gas lines to be installed. This can be an expensive endeavor that some people feel negates the money that could be saved by switching. Switching from gas to electric is an easier process, because homes already use electricity in some capacity.

The team at Diamond Heating and Cooling can also assist homeowners in making a decision by determining their heating needs and helping them find the right system for those needs. For furnace maintenance and repairs on both types of systems, call Diamond Heating and Cooling at 208-378-6624 to schedule an appointment.

Reduce Pollutants to Breathe Better

Pollutants

There are some air pollutants that can’t be filtered out with a furnace filter or media air cleaner. These pollutants can cause health issues, and are found in many common items in homes. Keep reading to learn what they are and how to reduce their presence in the home.

  1. Benzene

This common solvent can irritate skin and eyes, cause respiratory issues, and more. It is found in paints, oils, plastics and rubber. It can be emitted by furniture or other items in the house, increasing the occupants’ exposure.

  1. Trichloroethylene

This is used in printing inks, paints, spot removers, cleaning fluid for rugs, varnishes, and adhesives. It has been identified as a potential carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute.

  1. Formaldehyde

Most people associate this with dissecting frogs in high school science class, but it is found in many household products. Some of these are paper towels, cleaning products, carpet backing, and much more. It can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, and allergic contact dermatitis.

Some of these pollutants are commonly found in furniture because of how it is manufactured. To reduce its presence, check certifications, air out new furniture, and consider buying used furniture when possible.

To reduce these pollutants throughout the entire house, consider implementing more plants into the home. While it seems like such a simple solution, there are many types of plants that absorb these pollutants and clean the air around them. Plants like the spider plant, peace lily, English ivy, and many more are especially beneficial. These are all-natural air cleaners that can help everyone breathe better and worry less.

For help eliminating other indoor air pollutants like dust and pollen, contact Diamond Heating and Cooling. We offer allergy and asthma solutions that can help keep air cleaner, reducing allergy or asthma attacks for many people.

Tips to Limit Heat Loss Through the Garage Door

garage insulation

When homeowners look at where they could be losing heat in their home, they focus on door gaps and window seals. One spot that is often overlooked and can be a significant area for heat loss is the garage. Although the home is somewhat sealed off from it, the garage can release heat if it is poorly insulated.

There are a few things homeowners can do to limit this loss of heat and improve their energy bill.

  1. Wall Insulation

The wall between the house and the garage needs to be insulated. It already is in most homes, but in older homes, there might not be any insulation or there may not be enough. Adding insulation in this wall can make a huge difference in the comfort of the home.

  1. Garage Door Insulation

It’s common to find that most garage doors don’t have insulation on the inside, especially those with metal garage doors. It might be worth it to upgrade the garage door to a steel one with insulation, or add insulation to the inside of the existing garage door.

  1. Weather stripping

The last detail to attend to is any small gaps that may be present. Check the door between the house and the garage, as well as the exterior doors and windows for proper seals. If there are gaps, weather stripping can close them, and stop even more heat loss.

The best furnace in the world can’t win against heat loss in a house. If the home is well-insulated, turn attention to the garage to see if it is the culprit. Implementing the tips above could make a difference in home comfort, energy efficiency, and the energy bill.

For help increasing energy efficiency of the furnace in other ways, talk to the HVAC experts at Diamond Heating and Cooling. They can inspect the furnace to determine if there is another issue causing the energy bill to increase.

Furnace Cleaning

Furnace Cleaning

When furnace maintenance is mentioned, most people think about getting all the components checked for issues to prevent a breakdown, but there’s an important part of maintenance that homeowners might not think about: cleaning. The furnace needs to be regularly cleaned as well as inspected to keep it working properly.

The furnace can get loaded down the dust and debris over the years, which lowers its efficiency. There are many components that need cleaned to keep it working at an optimal level. Some of these are:

  • Heat Exchanger

Heat exchangers are a very important component in the furnace. Once it becomes dirty, the heat exchanger can begin to malfunction, needing repaired or replaced.

  • Burners

Burners can fail due to contamination. If they are covered in dirt, dust, and debris, it could disrupt the flow of gas and air.

  • Flame Sensor

When the furnace is having an issue staying on, the issue is likely a dirty flame sensor. This build-up of sediment won’t allow it to work properly.

These components, plus the entire furnace cabinet are thoroughly cleaned during Diamond Heating and Cooling’s furnace maintenance services. Homeowners should not attempt to clean these components themselves because furnaces deal with electricity and gas, two items that can be harmful when handled improperly. It’s much safer to call in a professional for furnace cleaning.

Instead of a DIY cleaning job, schedule annual maintenance with Diamond Heating and Cooling. They make it easy and a bargain with the Silver Club Membership. For just $13.50 per month, Diamond Heating and Cooling comes out twice a year to perform maintenance. In addition, members receive 20% off repairs along with many other savings. Make all aspects of furnace maintenance easier with the help of Diamond Heating and Cooling.

Frequently Asked HVAC Questions

HVAC Questions

Homeowners often have a lot of questions regarding HVAC systems, energy efficiency, and energy savings. To address some of these questions, here’s a compilation of the five most common HVAC-related questions homeowners have:

  1. How Can I Save on Energy Costs?

There are a few ways to accomplish energy savings. Here are some surefire ways to save:

  • Change the furnace filters regularly
  • Schedule annual maintenance
  • Use a programmable thermostat

 

  1. What Size HVAC Do I Need? Should I Size Up?

Bigger is not always better when it comes to HVAC systems. A system that is too large can lead to issues later. To find the right size, technicians need to measure the home to find the square footage and heating/cooling needs.

  1. Should I Repair or Replace?

There’s a lot of variables that go into this answer, but here’s a basic answer: If the system is over the age of seven and has required frequent repairs, it’s best to replace the system. Continuously repairing the HVAC system gets expensive and homeowners could save money by investing in a newer system.

  1. How Often Do Filters Need Replaced?

Dirty filters are the most common cause of system breakdowns. Simply changing out the filter is the easiest way to combat this issue. How often that should be done depends on the system and type of filter being used. In general, filters should be changed every 1-3 months. More often during winter and summer when the system is working harder.

  1. How Often Does The HVAC System Need Serviced?

For the best efficiency and energy savings, both the air conditioner and furnace should be serviced once a year. It’s optimal to get them serviced before they will be used for the season.

Hopefully this list of frequently asked HVAC questions is helpful for homeowners needing some answers about HVAC systems. For any other questions, just give Diamond Heating and Cooling a call!