Your Seasonal guide to Indoor Comfort
The temptation of pumpkin spice lattes and the eventual arrival of crisp, cold temperatures beckon you to the cozy, heated retreat of your home. Welcome to heating season! Here is our seasonal guide to indoor comfort.
To keep comfortable when outdoor temperatures fall, you may turn to a gas Furnace or heat pump to heat your home. When installed and functioning correctly, these central heating essentials provide warmth and indoor comfort — even when outdoor temperatures become frigid and frosty.
Let’s take a closer look at central heating equipment that helps make you comfortable during the heating season!
THE EFFICIENCY OF A GAS FURNACE
High heating bills can make you hot under the collar — which can be really uncomfortable! So, it’s important to know about the energy efficiency rating of your gas furnace.
Every gas furnace model is rated for its efficiency with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) percentage number. The higher the number, the more efficient the gas furnace is rated.
Let’s break it down. If a furnace has an AFUE rating of 80%, it means 80% of the energy of the fossil fuel is being converted to heat while 20% escapes and is wasted. A 98% AFUE rating means that only 2% of the energy is not transferred to heating capacity. So when you think about what it costs to heat your home with a gas furnace, consider the AFUE.
Are you looking to stay cozy and comfortable for many years? Some gas furnace models come with features that may improve your comfort level during the heating season.
One of these features is the gas furnace’s “stage.” The stage is all about the gas valve and the burner. Here’s how you can break down the different type of stages featured on a gas furnace:
Single-Stage Gas Furnace: This type simply operates either ON or OFF. It doesn’t offer the option of adjusting the gas flow. This is similar to turning your burner on the stove or grill on high and then off.
Two-Stage Gas Furnace: A two-stage gas furnace has two settings: high and low. This feature allows for operation depending on your heating needs — full gas flow for when more heat is needed or a lower flow for milder days.
Multi-stage or Modulating Gas Furnace: Like the heat on a gas stove or grill, the burner can adjust from high to low, and multiple levels in between. Once the gas furnace heats your home to your desired indoor temperature, the burner automatically adjusts to provide just the right amount of heat required to maintain the set temperature
THE GAS FURNACE
1. Propane or natural gas fuel generates heat in the furnace’s burners.
2. The heat produced passes through a heat exchanger.
3. Air from the home’s ductwork is blown over the heat exchanger, warming the air.
4. The furnace’s blower then forces the heated air into the supply ductwork, distributing it throughout the home.
If you use electricity to heat your home, you may rely on a heat pump to keep you warm during the cold months of the year. From the outside, this equipment may look similar to an air conditioner. In fact, a heat pump is capable of cooling your home just like an air conditioner. But when temperatures fall, a heat pump can reverse the heat transfer process and create heat inside your house.
Yes, that may sound hard to believe, but it’s true! Today’s heat pumps can pull enough heat energy from freezing outdoor temperatures to provide warm, comfortable temperatures in your home.
Heat pumps aren’t just used in locations with mild winters. Advanced engineering and technology have allowed these split systems to be used in areas with extended periods of subfreezing temperatures.
Like most people, you probably want to spend as little money as possible on home heating.
But, you also want to stay warm and comfortable in your home. That’s why it’s important to understand the efficiency rating of heat pumps.
Just like other home heating and cooling equipment, every heat pump model achieves a specific heating efficiency number. This number is called the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, or HSPF.
That number represents the total heat output of a heat pump, including its supplementary electric heat, as compared to the total electricity consumed in watt-hours during the same period.*
If you are looking for a high-efficiency heat pump, compare one model’s HSPF to another. The higher the number, the more efficient it is rated.
You may not realize how many new, enhanced features are now available on modern heat pump systems. These advanced features are designed to boost your indoor comfort level and could possibly save you money on your monthly utility bills.
Some heat pump models feature a two-stage or variable speed compressor. This may sound complicated, but it allows the heat pump to operate at different speeds – giving your heat pump more operational options that simply ON or OFF.
If it’s too cold inside, your heat pump’s compressor and circulating fan may operate at 100% heating capacity to reach the desired temperature. But to maintain that temperature for longer periods of time, the system’s compressor and circulating fan may be able to pull back on its output from 100%. This is where two-stage or variable speed technology comes in.
Benefits of a heat pump with a two-stage or variable-speed compressor includes:
Consistent Indoor Comfort – With its ability to adjust output, your two-stage or variable speed heat pump may minimize the hot and cold peaks and valleys often found with the ON/OFF cycle of a single-stage unit. The lower stage capacity is able to maintain the pre-set temperature longer than if the system turns off when it reaches the pre-set temperature. This allows for steady heating in your home.
When it’s cold and damp, the longer run times at lower speeds of a two stage or variable speed model allow additional time for moisture to be removed from your home’s interior spaces. While the main job of your heating system is to alter the indoor air’s temperature, these comfort-creating pieces of equipment may lower the indoor humidity level as a by-product of the heating process. Better humidity control leaves you with more comfortable interior air.
You may think that because a two-stage or variable speed model operates longer than a single-stage unit that it would use more electricity, but that’s not the case! Electricity usage peaks when a system turns ON and operate at full capacity.
Rather than cycling ON and OFF, the heat pump’s compressor adjusts to maintain the set temperature and therefore reduces energy consumption.
Purchasing a new Heating or Cooling System?
You want to be comfortable in your home no matter what the temperature is outside.
But, you also want the best value and quality heating and cooling equipment available.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Heating and cooling systems are a long-term investment in your home and the comfort of your family.
• New, innovative features and options may result in higher energy efficiency ratings, potentially saving on utility costs for years to come!
• You want to be sure to get the system that best fits your home design, budget, and indoor comfort expectations.
CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONER
So, let’s talk about the central air conditioner– one of the summer’s most popular pieces of residential indoor comfort equipment!*
A typical central air conditioning system is a two part or split system and includes:
• The outdoor unit that contains the condenser coil, compressor, electrical components, and a fan.
• An indoor evaporator coil, which is usually installed on top of the gas furnace or within the air handler inside the home.
• A series of pipes, or refrigeration lines, connecting the inside and outside equipment.
• Refrigerant, the substance in the refrigeration lines that circulates through the indoor and outdoor unit.
• Ducts that serve as air tunnels to the various spaces inside your home.
• A thermostat or HVAC control system to set your desired temperature.
Heat Pump in Cooling Mode
When the weather turns warm, a heat pump in cooling mode works just like an air conditioner — keeping you cool and comfortable in your home, all season long!
A heat pump may be particularly beneficial during the topsy-turvy temperatures that come with spring weather. That is because a heat pump applies heat transfer principles that can be used to heat AND cool your home. So, no matter the outdoor temperature, an HVAC system with a heat pump can be used all year long!
Energy Efficiency in Cooling Season
Your cooling system may get a lot of use in warmer months. You want to be sure your system is energy-efficient so your cooling bills don’t leave you steaming. Every air conditioner and heat pump has a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER rating. SEER measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use. The higher the SEER rating, the less energy the unit will use.
Here is the lowdown on these efficiency features:
Two-stage compressors offer two capacity options. It’s like having two units built into one — a low capacity unit to handle a small cooling demand and a larger one to meet a heavier demand. If conditions exist that 100% capacity is not required, a two-stage compressor can operate at the lower speed, offering partial capacity to reach or maintain your desired indoor temperature.
Variable speed compressor technology allows the unit to run at various outputs that best meet your set comfort needs at the lowest consumption of power. This may mean that a more moderate and slower speed can maintain your set temperature rather than 100%. Once the desired indoor temperature is reached, precise adjustments are being made automatically with the goal of providing the most consistent comfort at the lower possible level of energy consumption.
Spring Cleaning and Maintenance
Your indoor comfort and the functional life of the system can often depend on maintaining that delicate balancing act between equipment, air flow, and mechanics. Preseason inspections may uncover leaks, rust, rot, soot, frayed wires and/or corroded electrical contacts on your air conditioner or heat pump that can lead to bigger equipment failures if left untreated. Additionally, effective maintenance can reduce HVAC energy costs by 5% to 40% depending on the system or equipment involved.*
So, do yourself and your indoor comfort a favor, schedule pre-season HVAC maintenance before the peak temperatures hit. Why? Because it’s hard to be comfortable in your home when indoor temperatures are almost the same as the outdoor temperatures!
MORE TECH TIPS
As a new homeowner, you’re likely juggling numerous responsibilities. One crucial aspect of homeownership that often gets overlooked amidst the excitement and chaos is HVAC maintenance.