What is Hybrid Heat?
Just as a hybrid car can run on two different sources of energy, a Hybrid Heat system allows you to heat you home with different fuel options. Typically these systems utilize a high efficiency gas furnace and an electric heat pump to provide the most economical type of heating and cooling. The system control monitors the outdoor temperature and automatically selects how best to provide comfort for your home. During the coldest times the gas furnace would be used to provide all the heat needed to keep your home comfortable. As temperatures moderate, the system will select between gas heating or electric heat pump, to provide you with the most economical way to meet your comfort needs. This changeover set point is based on your fuel costs and the amount of heat needed. As your fuel costs change, or you do upgrades to your homes energy efficiency, this set point can be adjusted. Then during warm weather, the heat pump changes over to provide high efficiency cooling. These systems can provide significant savings over a standard furnace and air conditioner, depending on the age of your current system and the cost of fuel.
How much ventilation air should my home have, and how do I know if I have enough?
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends a minimum of 35 air changes per hour be provided by mechanical ventilation. This is in addition to the minimal amount of natural ventilation (infiltration) that occurs in today’s homes.
Some of the symptoms of a home with inadequate ventilation include:
- Stale, stuffy air caused by a build up of CO2
- Condensation on windows in the winter
- Odors from chemicals, cleaners or other volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)
Harmful effects to the homes occupants may show up as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, drowsiness and nausea
Should I be concerned about, and what products are available to control indoor air quality (IAQ)?
According to the EPA, the air inside your home can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside. Considering the fact that most Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, air quality indoors may present greater health risks than outdoor air pollution.
A variety of products are available to help control the quality of air in your home. These include high efficiency air cleaners, automatic humidifiers and dehumidifiers, air exchangers, zone control systems, and UV lamps.
How often should I have my furnace and air conditioner serviced?
All manufacturers of heating and air conditioning equipment recommend that owners have their equipment inspected annually by a qualified HVAC technician. In fact, “proper maintenance” may be a condition of the equipment’s warranty.
The single most important maintenance a home owner can do on their own, is to change or clean the air filter regularly. This may be as often as once a month for standard one inch filters or up to six months or a year for high efficiency pleated filters. Follow the filter manufacturer’s recommendation on replacement interval and replacement media model. Just because a filter media will fit your system does not mean it will offer the same protection you originally purchased.
A clean system uses less energy, has fewer breakdowns, does not harbor mold and smells, and will help extend the life of the equipment. Most HVAC contractors offer maintenance agreements to assist you and remind you when your system is due for a check up.
What type of air filter is right for my furnace?
Many furnaces are installed with a standard 1 inch fiberglass throw away filter in order to minimize the initial cost. Cost is the only advantage to this type of filter. They provide only minimal protection for the furnace and air conditioner and should be changed every 1 to 3 months.
Sometimes homeowners will choose a 1 inch pleated filter or static electric type filter at the time of replacement. They are available in the same sizes as the standard filters and claim to be more efficient. These filters, however, have a higher resistance to airflow and may need to be up-sized in order to provide sufficient airflow for your system. They still need to be changed or cleaned every 1 – 3 months like the standard filters, and since they often are installed in the same leaky filter frame that the standard filter used, may never really give you the efficiency they claim.
Several different high efficiency whole-home air cleaners are available which offer excellent protection for your heating and air conditioning equipment. They can, also, provide for a healthier home environment for your family and require only annual maintenance.
Why should I have a humidifier for my home?
During the heating season, the average American home, without a humidifier, can have a relative humidity in the 10% to 15% range. Humidity levels in this range can adversely affect your comfort, your health, your home and furnishings, and the cost of heating your home.
Low humidity dries out your respiratory passages and allows viruses to thrive increasing the likelihood of getting colds or other respiratory illnesses. In your home, it can cause the walls and ceilings to crack and the trim and wood floors to separate. The static electricity caused by dry air can be a problem for all sorts of electronic equipment.
When dry air evaporates the moisture from your skin, it provides an evaporative cooling effect. This can cause you to need a higher temperature to maintain your comfort level. You increase your home’s heating energy consumption by approximately 5% for every degree you raise your thermostat setting.
How do I select a whole house high efficiency air cleaner?
Several high efficiency air cleaners are on the market today. To know which one is right for you, be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Am I mainly interested in maximizing the efficiency of my HVAC equipment?
- Does anyone in my house have allergies or asthma?
- Does anyone smoke?
- Am I interested in filtering out and killing viruses and bacteria?
- Do I have pets?
The first type of air cleaner was mainly developed to provide added protection for the HVAC equipment. They are usually less expensive than other high efficiency filters, but provide little to no health benefits to the homes occupants.
The next type of air cleaner provides the same equipment protection as the first type and filters out pollens, mold spores, and pet dander. These filters were originally developed for people with allergies, but are often used as a good general purpose air cleaner.
The last type of air cleaner is the electronic type. These air cleaners filter out the smallest of particles like smoke, viruses, bacteria, and other very small particles. These are the best choice for anyone with asthma, or otherwise interested in providing the healthiest environment.
What are the advantages of ductless split units, and how are they used?
While not the most common way to condition a space here in the United States, ductless units are used extensively, for heating and cooling, in other parts of the world. These units are efficient, quiet, easy to install and zone, and adaptable to a wide variety of applications.
Ductless split air conditioners can be used to cool homes with no ductwork, such as homes with a boiler or electric heat. Or they may be used to supplement areas in the home that are difficult to cool, like the bedroom at the end of the ductwork, or the theater room with heat from the projector equipment.
Ductless split heat pumps are often used to heat and cool bonus rooms and additions, that don’t gain or lose heat at the same rate as the rest of the house.