What is an air handler?
If you’ve decided that you don’t need to pair your air conditioner with a gas furnace, but you’re still interested in a split-system configuration, you’ll need to pair your equipment with an air handler. But, what exactly is an air handler you ask? Well, let us tell you.
You may have heard an air handler referred to as an “electric furnace.” But, this would be misleading. Air handlers can have backup heating operation (in the form of heat strips) that DO run on electricity. But, if you need powerful winter heating – the electric heat strips in your air handler are not going to be the most cost effective heating method.
An air handler is a great option for homeowners in more mild climates that don’t need as much heating power. These units pair with your air conditioner or heat pump and help with heat transfer. Heat pumps paired with air handlers are ideal for homes in the South (i.e. Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, etc.) And, air conditioners paired with heat pumps can be great options for homeowners in the southern tip of Florida or even Texas. You should discuss your home heating and cooling system options with your contractor before you settle on your components.
So, what are the basic components of your air handler?
- The most important thing your air handler contains is your indoor evaporator coil. In an air conditioner, this is where refrigerant absorbs heat (and evaporates) leaving cool air to be distributed through your home. Same with your heat pump, but it also is able to do the opposite (transferring heat into the indoor air/condensing operation).
- Your air handler also contains a blower/air distribution system that hooks up to your ductwork. Conditioned or heated air has to enter your home somewhere, and your blower is where it all starts.
Of course there are other components in your air handler, but these are the most important.
Does your home use a gas furnace or an air handler? Make sure that if you are experiencing any issues with your air handler (or simply interested in a tune-up) you call your local heating and air conditioner contractor.
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Want to know how a high-efficiency furnace works? It’s all about condensing operation.
We’ve already established that the cost difference between a high-efficiency system and a standard-efficiency system can be made up over time through efficient operation (particularly if you live in an area that needs a lot of heating power). But, just how does a high-efficiency furnace work to save you money on heating costs?
We’ve already discussed basic furnace operation. Now, here’s the difference between standard-efficiency and high-efficiency models.
In gas furnaces, there is a component called a heat exchanger. This is where natural or propane gas is converted into heat energy and byproducts produced from the combustion process are vented through the flue system. Well, in a condensing gas furnace, there is more than one heat exchanger. The secondary heat exchanger removes more heat from the combustion gases, which then condense to produce water vapor. Then, cooled flue gas is vented out of the flue system. This is why units produced today can reach staggering efficiency levels – nearly 100% AFUE.
Did you already know this? If you’re interested in having a high-efficiency furnace installed in your home, talk to your local heating and air conditioning specialist.
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Heat Transfer Vs. Original Heat : Determining Heat Pump Savings
Over the past weeks, we’ve talked about the different systems you can use to heat your home. But, do you want to know the big thing that sets them apart?
It’s heat transfer and heat creation.
Here’s a very basic breakdown of what these two methods entail.
Heat Transfer: When the system uses refrigerant to transfer heat using the outdoor air.
Heat Creation: When the system uses energy sources (like natural gas or electricity) to create warm air.
So, which systems use heat creation?
Well… a lot of systems use heat creation. Think of your air handler, a space heater and gas furnaces. These methods tend to use more energy. That’s why, if you have an air handler with heat strips, or are using room or space heaters to heat your space, your electric bills can seem SKY HIGH. Gas furnaces also use heat creation, but are generally considered a less expensive way to heat your home. That’s because natural gas rates are normally lower than electricity rates in most areas.
All right, so which system uses heat transfer?
Well… that would be our friend the heat pump. Interestingly enough, it’s also the way an air conditioner works. Your heat pump uses refrigerant to transfer heat between one air stream and another. In winter, it transfers heat from the outdoor air to refrigerant. Then, the refrigerant transfers that heat into the indoor air.
How does this translate to heat pump savings?
Heat transfer generally requires less energy than heat creation (to a certain temperature mark). Which is why, if you live in an area that doesn’t see frequent temperatures below freezing, you can see savings when choosing a heat pump paired with an air handler for your year-round heating and cooling method. It’s also why, in other areas, a dual-fuel system is such a good idea. Instead of using an electric back-up heating method during the fall and spring, your heat pump can take over the job.
Make sure you keep this in mind while you are designing your new heating and air system with your local HVAC contractor. They’ll be able to tell you which method is the best for your home based on your local weather conditions!
Do you use a heat pump for year-round heating and cooling?
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Need to know how much gas heating costs per month? We’ll help you out.
We’re heading into the peak heating season! That means that your gas furnace, as well as your budget, may be struggling to keep up with new demands. For budgeting purposes, it’s important to have an idea of what your gas heating costs are per month, but that can be tricky.
It’s hard to give an exact figure for how much gas heating costs per month. BUT, we can help you figure out what goes into determining those costs. Prices for gas heating vary according to how many appliances you have in your home (that require gas), the size of your home, the efficiency of your gas furnace, local utility rates in your area and more…that’s a lot of variables.
Here’s a breakdown on how each factor will increase, or lower, your monthly gas heating expenses.
- Size of your home. Like your electricity and water bill, the size of your home is going to affect how much your gas bills run. If you have a bigger home, there is more square footage to heat during the winter.
- Having a big family. This can go one of two ways… If you have more people they could be fiddling with the thermostat more (different preferences for different bodies). This can drive up utility costs. BUT, it can also be a perk. More people in a home actually can make a home feel warmer.
- Having a small family. Again, this can go one of two ways. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can create a schedule that results in lower temperatures during the day while people are out of the house (it’s easier to coordinate schedules when there are fewer people). But, fewer people in the house will make it feel cooler.
- Utility rates. Prices for natural gas will vary according to the provider in your area. Make sure you contact your local providers to get an idea of the rates in your area. They may even have this available on their website.
- Efficiency of your gas furnace. While high-efficiency gas furnaces are more expensive to install, they can actually help you save money each month on your utility bills. That’s definitely a BIG perk.
- Age of your gas furnace. The older your system, the less efficient it may be. The less efficient your gas furnace is, the higher your utility bills are going to be. That’s why it can be a good idea to replace those old units.
- Did you have your unit maintained? Fall preventative furnace maintenance can help catch problems that could be raising your bills. Make sure you schedule maintenance with your local HVAC dealer every fall to make sure your unit is performing at peak levels.
- Furnace filters. A dirty air filter can actually lower the efficiency of your system. Make sure you are regularly changing your furnace filter.
- Weatherizing for winter. Make sure that every year, you weatherize your home. This includes reinsulating problem areas, using weather stripping to block off any air leaks around windows and doors, and more! Air leaks can be a major source of heating cost spikes in winter.
And this is just the surface! So, when you are frustrated because you can’t find an exact dollar amount, this is why. There is such a huge variance because everyone’s situation is unique.
Even if you aren’t new to your home and aren’t budgeting, this can be good information to know. If you see a spike in your heating bills, and you don’t know why – it could be cause of one of these factors.
Are you considering a high-efficiency gas furnace to lower gas heating costs per month?
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What is a furnace and how does it work?
If you currently have central heating, you know just how awesome it is during the winter. No one likes to be cold in their home and rely SOLELY on space heaters!
But, what are the different types of heating systems you can have and how do they work? Today, we’ll talk about one kind of furnace – the gas furnace.
The gas furnace is precisely what you’d think it is. It is a furnace powered by gas. Natural gas to be more specific. A natural gas furnace is a great way to heat your home. It provides quick, powerful heating at a (relatively) low cost per month.
But, how does the system work?
Well… although we don’t have to get into all of the “techy” details, here is a basic understanding of just how your gas furnace works.
- You change your thermostat settings to indicate your desired home temperature. This sends a signal to your furnace.
- Your gas furnace control board will then ensure that all of your system’s safeties are operational. Safeties are continually monitored throughout the heating process.
- Natural gas ignites in the furnace and then air is delivered throughout your home via the ductwork (after a 30-second delay).
- If at any point during the heating process a safety is triggered, the natural gas furnace is cut off and the furnace will enter its shut-down sequence. This is so you and your family stay safe.
- When your thermostat measures a reading at your set temperature your natural gas furnace will shut down.
Whenever your thermostat measures a reads a temperature reading below your set temperature, it will send a signal to start the process all over again. Pretty cool, right?
Of course, this is just one type of system (a single-stage system with a non-programmable thermostat). There are many other variations of gas furnaces and thermostats that can alter this process slightly, but this is the basic gist.
If it doesn’t seem like your gas furnace is operating correctly (e.g. blowing cold air, not kicking on, making loud noises, etc.), then you should switch off the system at both the thermostat and power supply, and call your local heating and cooling contractor.
So, did you already know this? Are you curious about how other heating and cooling systems work?
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How does a heat pump work?
Earlier this week, we talked about how a heat pump can be the ideal system choice for many homeowners.
Are you thinking about choosing a heat pump for your home, but want to find out exactly how it’s different than an air conditioner? Really, the process that creates cool air in an air conditioner is exactly the same as the process for a heat pump. BUT, a heat pump can reverse the method used by an air conditioner to provide heat as well.
Looking for a refresher on how an air conditioner works? Visit our previous “How an Air Conditioner Works” blog post.
So, what’s the key difference? It’s called a reversing valve. This valve can reverse the flow of refrigerant so that hot air is distributed through your ducts and cool air is released into the air outside. This can mean lower gas heating bills (especially during the spring and fall), simpler system setup is some areas (in the South, you may only need a heat pump and air handler to heat and cool your home) and greater home comfort.
Still not sure if a heat pump system is the right option for your home? You know where to turn. Your local heating and air conditioning professional will be able to fill you in on everything you need to know about electric heat pumps. They can tell you whether it’s common in your area to have these systems installed and they can tell you which setup (packaged, split or dual fuel) is right for your home.
So, are you still considering a heat pump for your home?
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Want to know what makes your air conditioner tick?
Although it may seem like it on the hottest of hot days, an air conditioner is not powered by magic. Like your toaster, your shower or your television, your air conditioner contains parts that keep it ticking. Ever wonder how your air conditioner works? Well, let me tell you…
- Connections. Your air conditioner works with either your air handler or evaporator coil (and gas furnace). Your air conditioner sits outside and connects to your indoor system by the lineset. This carries refrigerant between the two components.
- Indoors. Your air conditioner pumps refrigerant through your lineset to the indoor evaporator coil.
- The evaporator coil. Liquid refrigerant travels through the evaporator coil while warm air is blown across the coil. Heat moves from the warm air stream into the refrigerant. This cools the air blown over the coil and heats up the refrigerant – turning the refrigerant into a gas.
- Cool air distribution. The cool air travels to your home using your blower (located in your air handler or furnace) and ductwork.
- Back to the air conditioner. The refrigerant moves back to your air conditioner where the compressor pressurizes it.
- The other, outdoor coil. The pressurized refrigerant moves to the condenser coil. Here, heat moves into the air that is blown over the coil. This warm air is then blown outside. This is why when you stand next to your air conditioner it is blowing out HOT air. At this point, the refrigerant becomes a liquid again.
- Rinse and repeat. At this point, the process starts over again. It goes through this process until your thermostat detects the correct temperature.
While this is a basic explanation, it gets all the key points across. This is why it is so important that EVERY component in your system is working well. Make sure you contact a contractor before the peak cooling season. Have you contacted your contractor yet?
*NOTE: This is just the process for a split-system air conditioner. Packaged equipment and heat pumps operate differently.