Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Heat Pumps’

Heat Pumps or Furnaces: Which Is Best for My Home?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

If you are balancing your options for heating your home, you may come down to a choice between two popular—but very different—systems: the heat pump and the furnace. Furnaces are common and have kept homes warm for centuries. Heat pumps are more recent innovations (comparatively, at least) and offer the benefit of air conditioning as well. How best to decide between these two?

First, don’t make the decision alone. When it comes to making any important choice regarding your home, you should always consult with a professional in the field. For your home heating, talk to experts like those at Air Mechanical, Inc. about whether furnaces or heat pumps in Mounds View, MN do the better job—or at least, will do the better job for your home.

Furnaces: pros and cons

Furnaces are common in Minnesota because they excel at defeating extreme cold temperatures. Furnaces can reach high levels of heating rapidly, and they can endure for many years—not as many as boilers, but with a furnace you never have to worry about pipes freezing! Furnaces also have many different options for their fuel source—natural gas, electricity, propane—so there’s always a furnace that will work with your power supply.

The downside of furnaces is that they often require more repairs than other systems to keep them operating. Gas furnaces also pose a larger safety hazard than other systems, although with regular maintenance the risk is minimal.

Heat pumps: pros and cons

The huge advantage of heat pumps is that they work as both heaters and air conditioners. You have winter and summer covered with only one installation. Heat pumps are also exceptionally energy-efficient, since they use a small amount of electricity to move heat from one place to another, rather than burning fuel to create heat, the way a furnace does. A switch to a heat pump from a furnace can often save a family up to 30% off their annual heating bills.

The only drawback for heat pumps is their effective heating power starts to weaken when the temperature goes below freezing. In Minnesota, this can present a problem. A well-insulated house, however, can sometimes compensate.

Let Air Mechanical, Inc. help you find the right heating system

You should have HVAC professionals assisting you from the start of looking for new heating system installation. Call Air Mechanical, Inc. and we can look over your home and perform a heat load calculation to determine the best method to bring you the warmth you need. Whether you end up considering furnaces or heat pumps in Mounds View, MN you can’t go wrong with the services of Air Mechanical, Inc.

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What’s So Special About Heat Pumps?

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

You may have heard about heat pumps as an option for retro-fitting the heating system in your home, or as an option for a new home. If you’ve spent most of your life getting warmth from furnaces or boilers during the winter, you may feel hesitant about making the heat pump a serious option. However, they are growing in popularity in modern homes, so if heater installation is on the horizon for you, you should definitely consider the advantages of installing a heat pump.

Air Mechanical Inc. can handle any of your concerns about heat pumps in Andover, MN, and we perform expert installation and maintenance on them as well.

So why do we recommend a heat pump?

The simplest reason is that a heat pump can act as both a heater and an air conditioner, packaged into one system. If you are familiar with the workings of central air conditioning, then you already know a great deal about how a heat pump operates. The unit moves refrigerant through tubes and coils to shift heat from one spot to another. In cooling mode, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor evaporator coil, and releases it from the outdoor condensing coil. In heating mode, the direction of the refrigerant reverses and the two coils exchange jobs. Now the indoor coil is a condenser that releases heat, and the outdoor coil is an evaporator that absorbs heat. To achieve this double function, a heat pump uses a reversing valve and a second compressor.

If you already have an air conditioner or a forced air system like a furnace installed in your home, heat pumps can be hooked up to the existing ductwork, which makes installation easier.

Heat pump models 15 years ago were not terribly energy efficient, but the new models have improved: they must have a minimum AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of 80% to receive the U.S. government’s Energy Star label—and many rate higher than this.

This all sounds fantastic—and it is! But heat pumps won’t work for every home. Their heating power is not as strong as their cooling power, so depending on the conditions in your house, a heat pump may not be ideal for keeping you warm. This is why you should get expert advice before making a choice. Trained HVAC technicians can perform a heat load calculation to determine the specific heating requirements of your house so you will get the best system to keep you cozy through the winter.

For heat pumps in Andover, MN, trust on the reliable name of Air Mechanical Inc. Installation, repairs, maintenance—when it comes to heat pumps, we do it all!

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Heating Tip: Does My Heat Pump Have a Refrigerant Leak?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

When properly installed, professionally maintained and expertly repaired a heat pump is an efficient home heating and cooling method. Like any other home heating and air conditioning system, though, problems do occur. No system is perfect, and the best thing you can do for your heat pump in Andover is to schedule professional service the moment you suspect that something is wrong with the system. The sooner any possible problems are resolved the less serious the ramifications are likely to be. Contact Air Mechanical today if you are concerned about a possible refrigerant leak with your heat pump. We can find out for sure if this is the case.

Before jumping to any conclusions about a possible refrigerant leak in your heat pump you must remember that pretty much any issue with a heating and cooling system may have multiple possible causes. Still, there are certainly some indications that point toward a refrigerant leak. One problem that may indicate a leak in your heat pump is the frequent freezing up of your evaporator coils. A heat pump generally has a defrost mode to handle this problem, and it is not that uncommon. If it is frequent occurrence or is happening more and more, though, there is a good chance your heat pump is leaking refrigerant.

Even lowered efficiency and compressor failure can be caused by a refrigerant leak. Again, though, it is certainly not the only cause. The only way to know for sure if you have a refrigerant leak is to have your heat pump inspected by a professional.

One strong indicator of a refrigerant leak is simply lowered levels in the heat pump system. Refrigerant is not actually consumed, but is recycled for reuse again and again. During testing a bit of refrigerant may escape here and there, but the levels should be pretty constant. Even this may not be a sure sign, though, as a mistake could have been made allowing for a large refrigerant loss without an actual leak.

Whatever the cause of your heat pump issues, a professional Andover heating service provider is the only one that can resolve it with certainty. Contact Air Mechanical today for the services you need to diagnose and repair any refrigerant leaks in your heat pump. We can get it back on track in no time.

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Heating Tip: Comparing Heating Fuel Costs

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Looking for a new heating system or upgrade for your Ham Lake area home? Before you choose a new furnace or boiler system, be sure that you understand how to compare the costs of fuel in your area. While you may thing that natural gas is the best choice for a furnace, you may find that an electric furnace would provide better energy savings for your particular home.

There are many factors other than just the cost of the fuel to help you choose a cost-effective heating system to install. Call the Ham Lake heating professionals at Air Mechanical to help you through this process. First, you’ll need to decide which type of system you want to install.

Heating Options

Whether you are building a new home or retrofitting an existing heating system, you’ll have several options. You may decide that you want to upgrade your split system heat pump to a ductless mini split, especially if you are facing costly ductwork or adding a room to your home. While many newer homes the area install high-efficiency systems, you can also upgrade to zone control or install programmable thermostats to get more energy savings.

Keep in mind that before installing a new high-efficiency furnace or boiler system, it’s a good idea to make other upgrades to ensure that your home is ready for this type of system. Radiant floor heating is ideal in new homes, since the flooring would have to be ripped up in remodeling jobs. We can go over the different types of heating systems that we install and help you select the most cost-effective one by going over different factors you should consider. Fuel cost is one of these factors.

Gas or Electric

While natural gas is typically less expensive than electric heating systems, you will definitely need to research fuel costs in the area before choosing. You may also choose a dual fuel system, such as a dual fuel heat pump. This type of system uses the electricity for the heat pump in heating mode until it is no longer efficient to do so. Then the system automatically switches to the gas furnace as a backup heater. Make sure you understand the costs of heating your particular home with both types of fuel before choosing a dual fuel or standard heat pump or gas boiler system.

Feel free to call the Ham Lake heating experts at Air Mechanical if you have further questions about comparing fuel costs in our area.

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Andover Heat Pump Question: Why Won’t My Heat Pump Start?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

A heat pump that just doesn’t start one day is quite a common problem. The following are the most common problems that lead to an unresponsive heat pump.

  • A faulty thermostat
  • A faulty contactor
  • Some problem with the time-delay relay mechanism
  • A fault with the thermostat cable
  • The unit may be off due to a safety device being left open and exposed to high/low temperature, high/low pressure
  • A problem with the control module

There are instances in which the thermostat is not set correctly. This could lead to your heat pump not starting. If your emergency switch has been turned off, it could also lead to your pump being unresponsive. Apart from this, if your pump plug has been pulled out or the circuit breaker has tripper due to a surge, it could also lead to the same problem.

These may seem too obvious or simple but they are often the cause of an unresponsive heat pump. Other similar, simple problems may include a condensate pump switch being left open, the outdoor reset button may have been left off or the unit may have been locked out. In the last case, you can always turn the system off and turn it back on to get it to start working.

So before you go ahead and make that call to the service technician, make sure you check the following:

  • Ensure that no emergency switch is off
  • Make sure all breakers for the outdoor and indoor units are on
  • Check your fuses if possible
  • Check the safety switch on the condensate pump if you have one

If the problem persists even after trying all these steps, it is time to call the Andover heat pump technician. For any heat pump repairs that you need, give Air Mechanical Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call!

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Common Heat Pump Performance Problems: A Troubleshooting Guide from Maple Grove

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The heat pump in your Maple Grove home needs to work year round to provide heat and air conditioning. This is why you want to make sure it’s performing as efficiently as possible to save on energy costs and prevent break downs. You should schedule an annual maintenance check-up and inspection with a certified HVAC technician to test the efficiency levels.

However, there are a few common causes of performance issues to be aware of so that you can be sure your heat pump performs at optimal levels. Call Air Mechanical if you have questions about heat pump performance issues, or to make an appointment for an annual inspection and professional cleaning.

Airflow Issues

There should always be a certain amount of airflow (measured in cubic feet per minute) in your heat pump to maintain proper efficiency levels. If the airflow is less than 350 cfm per ton, it could increase your energy costs. You should make sure your Maple Grove HVAC contractor checks the airflow whenever your heat pump is inspected. Always keep the coils clean. Sometimes the ducts are not the right size, or the fan speed needs to be increased, but often cleaning the coils will help airflow, which is why it is important to clean and maintain the components of your heat pump. A certified technician will know what methods are best, so if you suspect an airflow problem with your heat pump, call a professional heating technician.

Air Leaks in the Duct System

Inefficient or poorly-designed duct systems may not distribute air properly throughout your home because of potential air leaks. There should always be a balance between the intake and return air in a forced air system, which helps maintain a neutral pressure within the house and increase efficiency. Some contractors argue over how tightly a house should be sealed for this reason, but if your heat pump is losing heat through leaks in the air ducts, this will greatly affect its efficiency.

Improper Refrigerant

Refrigerant leaks are another common cause of low performance levels in heat pumps. Most heat pumps already have refrigerant when they leave the factory and shouldn’t have any issues. Heat pumps that are charged with refrigerant when they are installed can sometimes have the wrong amount of refrigerant. Either too much or too little refrigerant will lower the heat pump’s efficiency and performance levels. Always check the recommended refrigerant amount or ask an HVAC technician before you add refrigerant yourself.

If the heat pump in your Maple Grove home isn’t working properly, it is also affecting your heating bills. Call Air Mechanical today to set up an appointment.

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Pros and Cons of Various Heating Systems in Cedar

Friday, December 9th, 2011

When it comes time to install a new heating system in your Cedar home, there are a lot of options to consider. Many people get overwhelmed when confronted with all of the furnaces, boilers and heat pumps on the market these days. So, to help you get a handle on what each has to offer and which will offer you the best benefits, here is an overview of the modern heating system market.

Furnaces

Furnaces are the core of a forced air heating system and use gas, oil or electricity to heat air which is then circulated through your home by a blower in your air handler. Furnaces are among the most fuel efficient heating systems on the market today with options available at up to 95% AFUE (meaning it uses up to 95% of the fuel consumed to produce heat). They are also inexpensive to install and while they don’t last quite as long as boilers, they are highly efficient when well cared for.

Boilers

Boilers use gas, oil or electricity to heat water or steam which is then circulated through your home into radiators or baseboard heaters. The heated water or steam releases heat into your home and heats it in turn. While not quite as energy efficient as a high efficiency furnace, boiler heat is perfect for homes with existing radiators and no room for vents and ductwork. It also has less of an impact on indoor air quality since there is no air movement and boilers tend to last a very long time when well maintained.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular, especially in milder climates where it rarely gets below 40 degrees F. A heat pump uses the same technology as an air conditioner to extract heat from outside using a compressor, evaporator coils, and condenser coils with refrigerant.

It is most efficient in the spring and fall when temperatures are mild, but it uses much less energy than either a boiler or furnace and it can be used in the summer to cool your home. When properly maintained, a heat pump will last 10-20 years and save quite a bit of money, though it is recommended that you have an emergency heat source for days when the temperature outside gets below 40 degrees F.

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Furnace vs. Heat Pump: Some Pointers from Golden Valley

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

If you’re preparing to replace your existing heating system in your Golden Valley home, you may very well be struggling with the question of whether to go with a furnace or a heat pump for your future home heating needs. Each of these systems have their own advantages and drawbacks, and once you’ve narrowed it down to one type or the other, you’ll still have a pretty wide variety of products to choose from.

Furnaces are still the most popular type of home heating equipment on the market. You can get furnaces that run on gas, oil or electricity, although gas furnaces are by far the most common type of furnace around these days. The latest models are extremely energy efficient, with AFUE ratings reaching into the high 90%s.

Like heat pumps, furnaces use ducts to transfer heated air throughout your home. They typically require regular maintenance once every year or two depending on the type of furnace you have, and they can be expected to last anywhere from 15 to 25 years when properly maintained. Most modern furnaces are also made to be compatible with a central air conditioning or cooling system as well.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, don’t generate the heat that they circulate throughout your house. Instead they are able to extract the heat from the air outside and pump it inside. This means that they use much less energy than even the most energy efficient furnaces.

However, heat pumps are only capable of heating your house comfortably when the outside temperature is above freezing. If you live in an area with particularly long and frigid winters, you’ll probably find that you need to supplement your heat pump with another heat source. Because of this, it actually makes little sense to use a heat pump in more extreme climates.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters, heat pumps can be a great option. They provide a constant flow of warm air to all parts of your home and can also keep you house cool during hot summer months. To cool your home, heat pumps simply reverse the process they use to warm it. They take the heat out of your indoor air and pump it outside. This is a very effective home cooling method and makes heat pumps a great solution for year round comfort.

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Do I Need to Supplement my Heat Pump with Another Heating System? A Question from Roseville

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

People often turn to heat pumps as a solution for their Roseville home heating and cooling needs because they want a single, all-inclusive system that covers all the bases. The convenience and simplicity is part of the allure of choosing a heat pump to begin with.

However, it’s not always that simple. There are situations where a heat pump is not enough to handle the needs of the whole home. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole idea goes out the window, but the heat pump may need some help in the form of a supplementary heating supply.

Here are some reasons/situations that may call for a supplemental heat source in addition to a heat pump:

  1. A  Cold Climate – Although heat pumps can serve as the primary heating system when temperatures drop as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit, they have trouble keeping up when the cold snap lasts longer than a few days. In any climate where temperatures dip below this mark for a length of time, a supplemental heating system is recommended.
  2. A Large Home – Heat pumps come in many different sizes, but if yours does not have the capacity to match the size of your home, then it won’t be able to heat the whole house. It’s as simple as that. If you are installing a new heat pump, be sure to get one that is properly sized. But, if you have an existing heat pump that is overmatched by your home’s size, simply supplementing it may be the easiest solution.
  3. The Power Goes Out – A Heat pumps’ use of electricity is a benefit in most situations, but unfortunately it means they are helpless when the power goes out. To avoid suffering in the winter chill when a blizzard takes out a local power line, have a backup/supplemental heat source on hand to use until the power comes back on.

Those are a few situations you may encounter in which supplementing a heat pump is a good idea. Remember, though, that each situation is different. When installing a new heat pump, consult with the professional installer beforehand to see if you should also have a supplemental heat system in addition to the heat pump. This is especially important if you live a cold climate.

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Heat Pumps and Energy Efficiency: A Tip from Ramsey

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Heat pumps offer a number of great benefits. For one, they are inclusive heating and cooling solutions, so they can maintain your Ramsey home at a comfortable temperature year round without the need for an additional system.

They run on electricity, so you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of additional bills and keeping a fuel supply around. They are also quiet and relatively easy to maintain—the list goes on and on. The point is, provided you live in a climate where heat pumps can operate properly, they make for great heating and cooling options.

One other huge advantage of heat pumps is that they are very energy efficient, often much more so than other heating and cooling options. For one, the heating efficiency of heat pumps can range from 150-300%, meaning that the amount of heat energy they are able to produce is 1.5 to 3 times greater than the amount of electricity they draw to do it. That is an incredibly efficient exchange.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency awards the EnergyStar to devices and appliances that surpass energy efficiency guidelines. Heat pumps that have earned the EnergyStar are even more efficient than their brethren, sometimes by as much as 9%, according to the EPA. If you have an older heat pump in your home already, a newer EnergyStar rated model may be as much as 20% more efficient.

While these numbers by themselves may not seem Earth shattering, consider two things. First, in an age of constantly escalating energy costs, any savings are welcome. Second, rewarding energy efficient homes has been a focus of the federal government for a few years. To that end, homes with EnergyStar rated heat pumps installed may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to 30%. So, not only do these devices help you save on your bills, but on your taxes as well.

The benefits of heat pumps are numerous, but perhaps none is a bigger plus than their extremely efficient use of energy. You can save electricity and save money, all while keeping your home comfortable year round.

If you are considering a heat pump for your home, these benefits are important to keep in mind while making your decision. For more information, talk to your local contractor.

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