Top Alternative Heating Options Available to Homeowners

Most homeowners rely on forced air heating units to heat their homes during the colder months, but there are several other options available. Listed below are our top picks for alternative heating options.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

For new construction, geothermal heating is an excellent choice. Geothermal heating works by utilizing the heat from the ground, which maintains a steady temperature between 45 to 75 ºF. Large coils of tubes are placed into the ground, and the tubes circulate water that heats up from the Earth’s temperature. The extracted heat from the water is then used to heat your home.

During cooler months the ground temperature itself can be much warmer than the outside air. Due to the ground already starting at a warmer temperature, it is much easier and more efficient for the system to reach the typical 70 ºF Temperature on your home’s thermostat. During warmer months, the system can also efficiently cool your home by using the earth as a heat sink, rather than a heat source. The initial investment of a geothermal heating system can be pretty substantial, but since this type of heating uses less energy, it can save you big money in the long run.

Pellet or Wood Burning Stoves

Depending on the size of your home, pellet or wood burning stoves can be a sensible choice for heating. You’ll need to purchase a stove that is appropriately sized to your home; otherwise, you’ll either be wasting energy, or your unit won’t big big enough to adequately heat your space. High efficiency models are now available which use less energy overall.

Both pellet stoves and wood burning stoves have their own pros and cons. For example, a pellet stove in general has fewer particle emissions, but may require electricity, making it vulnerable in times when the power goes out. Wood burning stoves, on the other hand, can be used without reliance on electricity, but you’ll need more wood than pellets to generate the same amount of heat.

Before considering having a wood or pellet stove installed, you’ll want to contact your local environmental office or codes department to find out the restrictions for wood burning or pellet stoves.

Solar Water Heating Systems

When looking for alternative heating options for your home, solar water heating is often a good choice. These types of heating systems utilize the sun’s energy and are available in a wide variety of designs. These variations are usually regarding the type of energy collector and circulation system the the heaters have. Options include:

  • Flat plate-collectors, usually made from copper tubing fitted to collecting plates
  • Batch-collectors, (or Integrated Collector Storage Systems) which both heat and store water in tanks and are not recommended for cold climates
  • Evacuated tube-collectors, which is the most efficient method of solar water heating as it is constructed in the same manner as a thermos, and therefore loses very little heat

If you’re in the market for an alternative to a forced air HVAC system, give us a call and learn how our services can help you with your heating needs.

How Low Can a Heat Pump Go?

Heat pumps are gaining in popularity as a viable alternative to conventional HVAC systems. They allow home heating and cooling with far less energy use than older types of environmental systems.

Heat Pump Basics

Heat pumps use electricity to move heat from one area to another – from outside to inside during cold times and inside to outside during hot periods. They are able to heat and cool homes with little energy expenditure, because they do not create heat or cold, only move it.

There is a downside to heat pumps. They are not effective enough to use in climates where the temperature drops to, and stays, well below zero. There simply is not enough heat for them to work with outside to increase temperatures inside to comfortable levels.

Types of Pumps and Temperature Effectiveness

Some types of heat pumps are better able to handle cold temperatures than others are. Heat pumps come in three main types:

  • Air-source heat pumps are the most common type in use today. These pumps draw heat from the air surrounding them. When optimized for cold temperatures, they maintain their full heating effect down to 41° degrees Fahrenheit and can still produce heat at 60 percent effectiveness at 17° degrees.
  • Water-source heat pumps draw heat from water and can work at lower temperatures than air-source pumps. They are able to keep functioning at lower temperatures because the pipes used to extract heat are laid at the bottom of a body of water where it is somewhat insulated.
  • Geothermal-heat pumps are set into the ground at a depth that maintains a relatively steady temperature all year. This allows them to function in all but the absolute coldest conditions, but also makes them more expensive to install than other types of pumps.

While these are the three main types of heat-pump systems, there are other, newer models:

  • Absorption heat pumps. These pumps use heat as an energy source rather than electricity. This heat can be derived in many ways – solar-heated water, burning propane or natural gas, or geothermal-heated water. Depending upon the pump’s specific heat source, they can continue working in a range of cold temperatures.
  • Hybrid heat-pump systems. Hybrid systems combine two types of heat pumps into one HVAC system. Most often, these systems combine air-source heat pumps and geothermal-heat pumps. A hybrid system will use the more energy-efficient air source pump until the temperature drops to a point where it loses effectiveness, and then the geothermal pump will begin providing heat. These systems can work in any temperature at which a geothermal pump would function, but they are cheaper to operate. The initial cost of installing a hybrid heat pump system, though, is very high.

Heat-pump technology is making these systems cheaper, more effective, and better able to withstand extremely cold temperatures. More people are acknowledging the benefits heat pumps have over traditional HVAC systems and are switching to these newer, more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. For more information on heat pumps, call the HVAC experts at J&M Air Conditioning and Heating.

 

Can My Heat Pump Keep Up When It’s Over 110 degrees Outside?

This year’s summer has boasted some of the highest temperatures on record. As we transition into fall and children return to school, the mercury continues to rise. Meteorologists predict that we will continue to break record temperatures throughout September. In the scorching heat, homeowners are confronted with a “burning” question: Can my heat pump keep up?

How A Heat Pump Cools Your Home

A heat pump providing cooling services? If it seems backward to you, you’re not alone. Many homeowners are confused about a heat pump’s function. A heat pump can provide your house with some much needed summer relief by pushing warm inside air to the outside. Some think that a heat pump may have trouble keeping up with summer swelter, but this is a common misconception. In fact, heat pumps are more likely to have trouble keeping up in bitterly cold climates, since they rely on pulling heat from the ground or water.

HVAC experts maintain heat pumps cool a home just as effectively as a standard air conditioner, no matter what the heat index.

Heat Pump Cooling: Other Misconceptions

If you’re considering a heat pump to provide warming and cooling services for your home, know the common misconceptions and truths surrounding them:

Heat Pump Efficiency

While heat pumps may cool a home just as efficiently as any other conditioner, they also won’t be any more efficient. Some homeowners assume that heat pumps help save money. While there’s no difference between air conditioners and heat pumps with regard to efficiency, there are differences between models. A high-efficiency model will save you more on your utility bills, for example.

Heat Pump Benefits

Heat pumps do help save cash in other ways. The main benefit of a heat pump is that you can use it for heating and cooling, so you don’t have to pay for installation and maintenance of two devices. And a heat pump can save you money on your winter heating bills—they can be 30-40% more efficient in the winter. When the temperature dips below 30 degrees, a heat pump generates its own heat, which costs a little extra. If you live in a climate with temperatures consistently under freezing, a heat pump may not be your best option.

How Much Does a Heat Pump Cost?

Makes and models vary, but in general, expect to pay $800–$1,500 for purchase and installation. Only trust a qualified HVAC specialist to install your unit. Improper installation can actually lead to higher energy bills.

Do They Require More Maintenance?

Like all appliances, your heat pump requires maintenance to keep it running at maximum efficiency. Just as you get a summer tune-up for your air conditioner, get one for your heat pump. Expect it to cost around $100.

Heat pumps are a smart heating and cooling option for many homeowners. They provide maximum efficiency while pulling double duty—and you don’t have to worry about a heat pump keeping up in hot summer temperatures. For more information about heat pumps and how they work, contact us today.