Generations of homeowners have turned to gas-powered furnaces to heat their homes, but with a growing trend toward electrical appliances and alternative power sources, there’s a new player in town. Heat pumps are emerging as an alternative – and energy-efficient – way to warm up a cold home.
“Anyone with solar panels on their roof should explore adding this type of system to their home,” says Mike Lea, of Lea Heating & Air Conditioning in East Dundee.
Heat pumps work in the same way as an air conditioner, but in reverse. They’re designed to take energy from the air outside and, with help from a refrigerant, transfer heat back into the air, thus warming up the home’s interior.
The system brings together indoor and outdoor units connected by refrigerant lines and electrical wiring.
In the past, heat pumps couldn’t work when outside temperatures were below freezing, but today’s heat pumps have made leaps and bounds, Lea says.
“Heat pumps of the past were never an option in Chicago because they provided little heating below 40 degrees outside,” he adds. “Some variable-speed heat pumps today can provide 90% to 100% capacity at temperatures as low as 10 to 20 degrees outside.”
The most economical system on the market today is a hybrid system, Lea adds. The Bryant Evolution combines a gas furnace with a high-efficiency variable-speed heat pump, which kicks off only when temperatures dip below a certain point. Then, the gas unit fires up. Lea finds this hybrid approach is especially well-adapted to the Midwest.
Selecting the right furnace – for a hybrid or traditional setup – is an important part of the puzzle, especially considering nearly 80% to 90% of homes have an oversized unit, Lea says. When an old unit is replaced, the installer typically tries to match the old unit’s BTU, a measure of heat output. In all likelihood, your new furnace is wasting energy.
“Today’s furnaces are much more efficient in how they operate, and the BTU output rating is a lot higher than the older furnaces,” Lea says.
Lea Heating & Air Conditioning is located at 570 Rock Road Dr. in East Dundee, (847) 428-6660.