Posts Tagged ‘heat pump’

Time Running Out for Home Energy Efficiency Tax Credit

October 13, 2011

We’ve provided the details on the federal home energy-efficiency tax credit a few times this year—for efficient furnaces, air-conditioners, windows, insulation, and the like. You’ve have access to the federal tax credit for existing homes for almost six years, in some form or another, including a bump up in the credit amount for two years as part of ARRA and then ratcheting back down this year.

But the time is running out. These federal credits disappear at the end of the year. To be eligible, qualified products must be “placed in service” (installed) by December 31, 2011. If you know you’re going to be doing something that qualifies, now is the time. I’m not betting that Congress will pull together and agree on much of anything, let alone pass something like an extension of this tax credit. So right now, it looks like before the end of the year, or kiss it goodbye.

Of course, if the time isn’t right for you, we always help our customers find any other incentives out there. Call us when you’re ready.

Thanks, Mike

Ductless Mini splits: heads or tails you win!

May 20, 2011

It took me a while to understand that a refrigerator, dehumidifier and air conditioner were actually all pretty much the same thing.  I remember trying to stay out of the kitchen in the summer time because it was so hot even when we weren’t cooking.  I figured it was just the motor doing something.

Indeed it was.  That something was driving a compressor and when you compress the gas stored in the coil in a refrigerator or any of these appliances, cool stuff happens literally. 

The controlled compressing and expansion of gasses help keep our food cold, cool our rooms with air conditioners and dehumidify them too.  Because there are always two sides to a coin the heat released by the condenser can be used to your advantage. 

A ductless or mini split system can change directions in the cooling process and provide heat.  There’s no ductwork as the name suggests, and the split has to do with the two components that work together: an outdoor condenser and an indoor air handler.

These units can be a good option if you need a bit of both cooling and heating in a space. Depending on the climate you live in they may be all that you need to address cooling and heating needs.  Certainly it is a wonderful option on the shoulder seasons where you may just need to take a bit of the chill out of the air in a particular room.   And if you have hot water (or steam) heating—radiators, baseboard, or radiant—ductless mini splits provide a great, efficient, retrofit for air-conditioning.

Remember, as with all heating and cooling systems, this is only part of the whole picture.   If you are uncomfortable in your home it may be time to look at how it is working or not working.  Assessing common household problems especially insulation, air sealing as well as the HVAC systems are important and that is best done with a certified energy advisor.

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Yes, Virginia, there are energy improvement rebates.

March 23, 2011

Energy Efficient Solutions, A GreenHomes America PartnerWe mentioned partner Energy Efficient Solutions while talking about their great crawlspace work the other day.  Well, they can help you tap into some of the great rebates available on cooling and heating equipment still available in Virginia, right now.  But likely only if you act fast.  There are still Recovery Act rebates in place for heat pumps, furnaces, and water heaters.  And there is a home retrofit program on the streets in the Hampton Roads area.  In many cases, these are in addition to already existing utility rebates–up to $5,000!  But as we’ve seen on most other states, these funds will probably be used up quickly, within weeks or months.   It’s first-come, first-served, and when the money’s gone, it’s gone.  Don’t miss out.  [Call Energy Efficient today to get your place in line!]  Whether rebates or tax credits or both, depending on your project, now is the time.

Heat pump water heaters–an interesting choice, but not a one-size-fits-all solution

March 19, 2011

An evolving water-heater technology has been moving more mainstream over the past couple of years.  This technology uses a heat pump (think air-conditioner working in reverse), to heat the water.  I’ll focus on GE’s GeoSpring Hybrid water heater for discussion purposes.

GE's "hybrid" water heater

The good news is that this technology is ready to roll.  Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH) can be twice as efficient as a standard electric resistance water heater, and that increased efficiency can add up to big savings over time.  This can be a great choice for many homeowners.

It’s not for everyone, however.  In most cases, if you heat you water with natural gas, it won’t make sense to switch to the heat pump.  This does depend on things like the gas and electric utility rates, usage patterns, and climate.

The GE model is only available in a 50-gal tank, and it won’t provide either the capacity nor the efficiency benefits for high-usage situations.  The heat pump is more efficient, but it takes long to recover—that is it takes longer to make the water hot.  To compensate for this there is a standard heating element that you can use to speed things up in “high demand” situations.  In fact, you can set it to standard mode and it will function just like a regular electric resistance heater.  However, the more you heat water using the electric element instead of the heat pump, the less you save.

Because of the compressor and fan, a heat pump water heat does make some noise while it’s running—about the same as a full-size microwave.  Since water heaters are often in basements, garages, or otherwise isolated from the living space, this may not be an issue.  But it’s something to be aware of.

In simple terms, the heat pump uses heat from the air and transfers it to the water.  A secondary effect is that it cools the air around it.  This is actually a nice side benefit in cooling climates.  However, in colder climates where you’re paying to heat your home for much of the year, in some sense you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and I don’t think this technology makes sense in the northern U.S., snow country.  In the north, where inlet water temps (the temperature of the water is it hits your home from the city lines or your well) can be quite cold, you’ll also be in the “high demand” mode much of the time, again, reducing your savings.

Height can also be issue, and this won’t fit in some shorter crawlspace where a “low-boy” water heater is needed.

Bottom line:  A HPWH can be good choice in cooling climates where you heat your water with electricity—especially where electric rates are high.  Not the best choice if you already heat with gas or see snow for half the year.


Is it time to replace your furnace, boiler, or heat pump?

October 25, 2009

We get asked lot whether someone should replace their furnace, boiler, or heat pump.  Great question.  Of course, it’s hard to say for certain without know the particulars–but the best answer is often earlier than people think.

Most people wait until their system breaks down to consider replacing it.  They don’t want to pay the cost of the new equipment any earlier than they have to.  With today’s new high-efficiency furnances and boilers, however, you may be spending a lot more in waste heat and money sent in smoke up your chimney than you save by waiting.  It’s be worth taking a look at.

And there are a variety of comfort, safety, and noise factors which might also point you toward a new system now.  Look for simple signs that it may be time to replacement your furnace.

A huge advantage of “planned replacement” (as opposed to “emergency replacement”) is that you have the luxury of making adjustments to your home which can greatly improve comfort, safety, and energy-efficiency, and you can match the system to your exact requirements rather than getting stuck with whatever is on the shelf.

Check the signs that it might be time to replace.  If it is, look at your whole house for the best combination of improvements to me.  And remember that all of this may be eligible for the current $1500 federal tax credits for home improvements including furnaces, air-conditioning, insulation, windows, and even roofing.


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