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Frequently Asked Questions

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Heat pump systems are highly effective, reducing heating and cooling costs by 30-40 percent of a forced-air system. There are two main types of heat pumps — ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps. Ground source heat pumps rely on the fact that the temperature of the earth about three feet deep is consistently between about 45 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit in both summer and winter. This type of system uses pipes buried in the ground to transfer temperatures to the inside of the home. The most important reason to choose a ground source heat pump is that geothermal energy is incredibly reliable. When the sun doesn’t shine, solar panels are useless. When the wind doesn’t blow, turbines are equally useless. However, ground source heat pump is very much a “set it and forget it” type of technology. The drawback to ground-source heating and cooling is that it is best installed while building the house. It can be retrofitted, but pipe placement can be complicated, and the pipes can’t easily be run under the home in areas with no basement mandate. Another option is to choose an air source heat pump, which relies on the fact that when gases expand, their temperature drops. Also known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, this is what keeps your refrigerator cold and your central air-conditioning unit pumping cool air into your home. The only difference between an air-source heat pump and a central air conditioner is that the former can reverse the cycle of the refrigerant. In summer, the heat pump “takes up” the heated air inside the house and sends it outside. In winter, this process is reversed, using only a refrigerant.


What's the Difference Between Upflow and Downflow Furnaces?

One of the biggest differences between an upflow furnace and a downflow furnace is that a downflow furnace will need a reinforced floor underneath it since it’s a rather heavy piece of equipment. This is not an issue with an upflow furnace, as it will be in the basement of a home. Since there are requirements with regard to the flooring for downflow furnaces, installing one can be more difficult, if not impossible in some circumstances. Of course, because not all homes have a basement, a downflow furnace is sometimes the only option available. Another big difference involves the efficiency of each furnace. As we know, hot air tends to rise, which makes upflow furnaces more efficient with regard to the amount of energy they use to heat a building. Many people also find the upflow of air more comforting and less noticeable compared to warm air being pushed downwards. This generally makes an upflow furnace preferred to a downflow furnace, assuming, of course, that both options are on the table.


What is a Downflow Furnace?

The air is first collected from the top portion of the furnace. It then warms up in the heat exchanger that’s located in the middle of the furnace. From that point on, it is pushed downward into a building’s heating ducts. These types of furnaces are often found in the attic of a home. However, it’s also possible to place them in an adjacent garage or even on the top level of a home, with the understanding that any attic or crawlspace above that level won’t receive any heat from the furnace.


What is an Upflow Furnaces?

For most people, a furnace is a furnace. When your house gets too cold, it turns on and warms everything up; no muss, no fuss. If only things were that simple. When it comes to furnaces, there are all kinds of differences from one unit to another. As a result, the process of buying a new furnace can be far more complicated than you expected it to be. To demystify just one of the ways these machines can be different, furnaces can be broken down into two separate categories — an upflow furnace and a downflow furnace. As its name implies, an upflow furnace will force air upwards. It takes air from the bottom of the unit, warms it up as expected and then push it upwards into the ductwork of a building. An upflow furnace operates based on the principle that hot air rises. As a result, upflow furnaces are generally placed in the basement of a house. If this is where your furnace is located, then in all likelihood you have an up-flow furnace.


What Does the Energy Star Label Mean?

If you’ve purchased any kind of appliance, electronic device, lightbulb, heating and cooling system, or even a new home in the past 25 years, you’ve probably come across the Energy Star label. Perhaps seeing it on something pushed you to buy a certain product, or perhaps it’s become such a common site that you don’t even notice it. In any case, the Energy Star label is one of the most important labels you’ll find on any product. But what exactly does it mean and why is it so important? Why Is the Energy Star Label Important? The point of the Energy Star label is to identify products that are more efficient in their use of energy than comparable products. Consumers who wish to buy products that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can look for the Energy Star label and know that those products will help them to protect the environment and save money better than similar products that don’t have the Energy Star label. There are a number of standards and specifications set by the EPA that a product must meet in order to be given an Energy Star label. Products must provide the features expected of it without sacrificing quality, while at the same time meeting set standards for energy efficiency. If that product costs more than comparable products, consumers must be able to offset the extra cost with money saved on their utility bills. It must also be possible to test and verify the energy efficiency of the product. Naturally, there are different standards for different types of products, but these are the general guidelines for receiving an Energy Star label. Energy Star certification is always subject to change, particularly if energy standards or testing methods change. For instance, if more than 50% of products within a certain industry receive Energy Star certification, the standards and specifications will likely be raised. Complaints from consumers, changes in a product’s availability, or changes in technology may also lead the EPA to reconsider whether a product is deserving of an Energy Star label.


How can I control my energy costs?

Number one: purchase a high efficiency variable speed system. Variable speed means your system varies its speed depending on your homes heating and cooling requirements. Because of this, variable speed systems are more efficient than single-stage systems. Efficiency ratings also matter. When you match a 14, 16 or 18 SEER air conditioner or heat pump with a variable speed furnace or air handler, you can rest assured that you have selected a home comfort system that is one of the quietest and most energy efficient available today.


My children have allergies. Is there a way to improve the indoor air quality in my home?

An electronic air cleaner is 40 times more effective than a standard throwaway filter in removing unwanted particles from your home. Particles such as pollen, dust, bacteria, tobacco smoke, cooking smoke, animal hair and dander prevent your indoor air from being as healthy as it could be. An electronic air cleaner with a washable electronic cell is up to 99% effective at removing these airborne particles. An electronic air cleaner also protects the operating efficiency of your heating and air conditioning system and keeps your furniture, drapes, carpet and walls cleaner, as well.


What is the difference between a manufacturers limited warranty and an extended warranty?

A manufacturers limited warranty is the warranty that a product leaves the factory with. Typically, it covers specific parts for a limited period of time. Extended warranties are optional and are generally purchased at the same time as the equipment. Optional extended warranties cover all parts and labor. There are a variety of optional extended warranties to choose from, but all are designed to offer long-term peace of mind.


Why are rating numbers important?

Rating numbers indicate the efficiency of heating and air conditioning equipment and are directly related to the amount of energy a specific model uses. The higher the rating, the more efficient the product, and the lower your energy bills can be. The federal government establishes rating guidelines and sets minimum efficiency levels.


How do I know what size system I need for my home?

We always conduct a complete energy analysis of your home. By considering window size, insulation values, age of home, ductwork, other building materials, as well as a variety of other factors, we can determine the right size system and equipment for your home. We also ask questions about your existing comfort issues.


Do I need to replace my air conditioner and furnace at the same time?

Think of your air conditioner and furnace as part of a total system. That system will work better, longer and more efficiently if all of its components are matched in capacity and efficiency. For example, your new air conditioner will be rated with a specific SEER efficiency rating. Your existing furnace and indoor coil can significantly impact this efficiency because of technology differences and an imbalance in capacity. Your indoor coil may even be dirty and blocked with particles, which further hinders its performance. A mismatched system mixes old technology with new, decreasing your overall comfort and diminishing performance.