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Green Heating: Heat Pumps, Pro and Con

If you are interested in green heating your home, you could turn your thermostat down and put on a sweater. If you want to spare your community from the pollution of heating oil, then a heat pump is an alternative that uses electricity.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is simply the reverse of air conditioning. "Air conditioning removes warm air from a room. A heat pump uses a reversing valve to put warm air into a room," said Tom White, owner of Long Beach Heating and Air Conditioning in Long Beach, California. "There are just three components to a heat pump: an indoor motor, an outdoor motor, and a compressor," White explained.

Saving on Costs with Heat Pumps

White points out that some areas of the country do not have natural gas available to them. "Coeur d'Alene, Idaho doesn't have natural gas, but they have tons of water-generated electricity--keeping costs down. It makes sense there to use a heat pump," he explained.

Other advantages of using a heat pump include:

  • cleaner air
  • no carbon monoxide poisoning
  • fewer components that need repair
  • long-lasting with lower repair costs

"I had a customer who thought he needed a new unit. That would have cost $5,000, but all he really needed was a compressor which was only $1,900 to replace," said White.

Heat pumps are often used in commercial buildings because the installation is much less expensive than putting in a gas line. Landlords come out ahead when tenants pay the electric bills. Condos and apartments where residents might live above each other also are places where heat pumps are prevalent. There is no need for a vented roof or chimney that some other heating methods require.

Heat Pumps Not Always the Best Option

There are a few drawbacks to using a heat pump. First and foremost, they don't work in cold weather. "If it reaches under 38° they turn off," White said. "Then they have to be backed up with resistance heating." Redundancy is not green heating.

Secondly, it sits outside which means every time it turns on, your neighbors can probably hear it too.

Lastly, though there are few parts, those parts are running nine to ten months out of the year compared to just four or five for a forced-air heater and an air conditioning unit.

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Home Heating Systems

Home Heating Systems
It usually isn’t until we receive our energy bill that we remember how our home is heated. Heat is often taken for granted because for the most part our heating systems are controlled by a simple turn of the thermostat and magically we have heat! In recent times, homeowners are becoming more conscious of how much heat is used because energy costs are taking a bigger bite out of our household budgets.

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Common Air Conditioning Problems

Common A/C Problems
Most air conditioning problems are a result of flawed installation, poor service, and insufficient maintenance. However, there are several ways to check for and resolve problems associated with your central air conditioning. Common problems include the compressor failing to turn on, the air not coming out cool enough, low airflow, and water leaks.

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Energy Efficient Air Conditioning

Energy Efficient Air Conditioning
In order to get the most out of your air conditioning system, it is important to understand the different designs, components, and operating principles. Paying close attention to the proper sizing, selection, installation, maintenance, and correct use are keys to lowing your overall costs.

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