Make the Most of Ceiling Fans
If you are like most Americans, you have at least one ceiling fan in your home. Ceiling fans help our indoor life feel more comfortable. They are a decorative addition to our homes and, if used properly, can help lower energy costs.
Tips for making the most of your ceiling fans:
1. Flip the switch – Most ceiling fans have a switch near the blades. In warm months, flip the switch so that the blades operate in a counter clockwise direction, effectively producing a “wind chill” effect. Fans make the air near them feel cooler than it actually is. In winter, move the switch so the fan blades rotate clockwise, creating a gentle updraft. This pushes warm air down from the ceiling into occupied areas of the room. Regardless of the season, try operating the fan on its lowest setting.
2. Adjust your thermostat – In the summer, when using a fan in conjunction with an air conditioner, or instead of it, you can turn your thermostat up three to five degrees without any reduction in comfort. This saves money since a fan is less costly to run than an air conditioner. In the winter, lower your thermostat’s set point by the same amount. Ceiling fans push the warm air from the ceiling back down toward the living space, which means the furnace won’t turn on as frequently.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE – Make sure your ceiling fan is the right size for the room. A fan that is 36-44 inches in diameter will cool rooms up to 225 square feet. A fan that is 52 inches or more should be used to cool a larger space.
4. TURN IT OFF – When the room is unoccupied, turn the fan off. Fans are intended to cool people – not rooms.
What Size Heat Pump Do I Need?
There are many different types of heat pumps and efficiencies, but there is another important factor if you’re considering a new unit—purchasing a properly-sized unit. Because your heating and cooling system is one of the more costly purchases for your home, it is important to understand how to know your unit is the correct one.
When dealers talk about the size of a heating and cooling unit, the measurement is in tons, where 12,000 BTU/h equals one ton of heating and cooling. There are a few ways a dealer can determine the size unit needed for your home: replacing the old unit with the same size, using a “rule of thumb” or performing a load calculation, which is the best method.
In many cases, when it’s time to replace a unit, dealers will typically put in a system that is the same size as the previous system. But if you have made any kind of energy efficiency improvements to your home, the unit may not be the right size for the current household and could be oversized. When it comes to your home’s heating and cooling system, bigger isn’t always better. Not only would you pay more at the point of sale for the unit, but down the road, you may be paying higher power bills since your system will not be as efficient as it should be. Another method to sizing a unit is to use a “rule of thumb” where the unit is determined mostly by the square footage of a home. This is something that has been done for many years and often leads to the installation of an oversized unit, since using this option does not take into account any aspects of the home, such as insulation levels or types of windows and doors, which should also be considered when determining the size of the unit needed.
The most accurate way to determine the size needed for a home is to do a load calculation. Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the governing body for air conditioning contractors, developed a manual for contractors to follow in order to determine the size of a unit— the Manual J. The Manual J load calculation takes several items into account to determine the size of the unit, including the dwelling’s square footage, volume of the home, size and type of windows, doors, walls and floor, the direction the house faces, type and amount of insulation, number of people living within the home, air infiltration, appliances and more to accurately determine the amount of BTU/h needed to properly and efficiently heat and cool the home. Once the BTU/h is determined, ACCA developed additional guidelines for selecting equipment and designing the duct work. There are several programs contractors can use that follow these ACCA-approved principles.
When you receive quotes from contractors, remember to ask how they determine the proper size of the unit. They should do a load calculation, verify the duct is designed correctly and pick the appropriate equipment.
Remember, a properly-sized unit will mean that you are getting the most value from the power you and your family consume.
Choosing a Heat Pump System
When choosing a heat pump system, there are two considerations you should keep in mind– the efficiency of the unit and type of unit. The efficiency of the unit is stated with the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) – the higher the SEER number, the greater the efficiency and therefore greater energy savings. According to the Department of Energy, a 13 SEER heat pump is the standard and it is also the most commonly used because it is the least expensive.
The type of unit you choose is an important decision based on your personal need. There are three main types of heat pumps available. First is the air source heat pump, which is the most common in our geographical area. Air source heat pumps extract the heat that is present in outdoor air in the winter and transfer it inside your home to keep it warm and comfortable (and yes, there is heat in the air until the temperature reaches −459.67° Fahrenheit, or absolute “0”). The process reverses in the summer – the heat pump pulls the heat out of indoor air and releases it outside to keep your home cool and dry.
When the temperatures become extremely cold outside (usually 30 degrees or less), air source heat pumps cannot extract as much heat as needed from outside, causing the backup heat source, electric heat strips, to be activated. Heat strips use more electricity because they generate warmth from heating elements rather than utilizing the outside air.
Another type of unit is the dual fuel heat pump. These heat pumps are similar to air source heat pumps; however, dual fuel heat pumps use a gas furnace as backup heat rather than electric strips. This is a good option to consider if you already utilize gas in your home.
If you are looking for an Energy Star unit for air source or dual fuel, consider a minimum 14.5 SEER rating. The most efficient heat pumps have a SEER of between 14 and 18. High-efficiency heat pumps, which have a SEER of 16 or higher, will decrease the humidity inside of your home better than standard 13 SEER heat pumps, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months.
The third option is a geothermal heat pump (also known as ground-source or water-source), the most efficient type of heat pump available, but also the most expensive. This unit uses heat from the ground or a water source rather than outside air to move heat in and out of the house and can achieve a higher efficiency than air source heat pumps. Since these heat pumps don’t use outside air, they cannot use a seasonal rating like an air source heat pump. Instead, an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is used to determine the efficiency of this type unit. The lowest EER for most geothermal heat pumps starts at 17 and can go as high as 30 or higher. Due to the fact that geothermal systems are the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling systems available, the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit effective through Dec. 31, 2016.
A heat pump’s ability to both heat and cool makes it a very economical and efficient home comfort system. Choosing a heat pump is a major decision for a household. Always remember to get at least three quotes from licensed and reputable companies and don’t let price be the only decision factor.
Learn more about our heat pump rebate program, or call (800) 545-5735, ext. 2118.