Carolina Climate Control Blog: Posts Tagged ‘geothermal energy’

Install A Heat Pump Or Install A Furnace: Which One Is Right For Your Charleston Home?

Friday, November 15th, 2019

With a bit cooler air breezing into Charleston this week, it’s right about time you may be assessing the heating capabilities & needs of your homes’ HVAC system.

Hopefully as you start using your heat setting again, you don’t have any issues — something you probably don’t worry about if you have a comprehensive HVAC maintenance plan.

If you do run into issues, however, you’ll probably be having to make the decision to repair or replace your heating system. Read our post about knowing when to repair or replace your system here if you aren’t sure which one you’ll need for your Charleston home (the post is focused on air conditioning systems, but the same rules apply for your heating system).

Should you go the route of replacing your heating system, you may be presented with yet another question: install a new heat pump unit or install a new furnace?

Generally speaking, most homeowners simply choose to go with whatever kind of unit or setup that was in place previously. This definitely makes sense as the rest of the components of your HVAC system will already be setup for that type of heating source.

Having to replace your heating unit, however, gives you a great chance to look at a few alternative options regardless of which kind of system you are replacing. It may also provide an opportunity for a entirely different setup altogether — more on that below.

To help you review your heating replacement options below is a quick rundown comparing heat pumps versus furnaces, which one may work better in your home and another type of heat source you may not know about.

The Difference Between A Heat Pump vs Furnace

While there are several differences between a heat pump and a furnace, at the core of their differences is the source of their heat production.

As you probably know, a furnace produces heat by running electricity through metal coils or by burning a type of fuel. Your furnace most likely uses gas or electricity if you’re here in Charleston, but other types of fuels used in furnaces include oil, wood and wood pellets.

A heat pump on the other hand doesn’t burn or consume anything to produce heat. As its name implies, it “pumps” heat from one location to another. So in the winter, your heat pump pulls ambient heat from the outside air and transfers it into your home. We go into more detail about how a heat pump works in this post if you want to learn more about its operation.

Obviously, if it gets too cold outside a heat pump will struggle with keeping your home warm while a well maintained furnace will provide consistent heat no matter how cold it gets outside. This shouldn’t turn you off of heat pumps however as the climate in Charleston is such that it rarely — if ever — gets cold enough to limit a heat pump’s heating capacity. Not only that, heat pumps can provide more than just heating operation as we’ll review below.

One-Way vs Two-Way Operation

The other important difference in system types are their usage throughout the year. While a furnace will most likely sit idle during the summer, a heat pump can reverse its operation to also function as your home’s air conditioning system.

Just as in the winter a heat pump will transfer heat from the outside into your home, it can transfer heat and humidity inside your home to the outdoor air.

This two-way operation is part of the reason most Charleston homeowners go with heat pump systems. Having one system to install and maintain simplifies repairs and can lower maintenance costs in some cases. When the primary need for an HVAC system is air conditioning and smaller windows where there’s need for heating, you can see why heat pumps are the obvious choice for homeowners.

If there are Lowcountry winters where the temperatures dip below a heat pump’s viable operation, though, you’ll be happy about having installed a furnace if you choose that as your next heating solution.

Go A Different Direction

“What other options are there other than traditional heat pump or furnace heating systems?”, you may be saying to yourself. The answer to that question lies beneath the ground.

Geothermal heating and cooling systems have been gaining more and more traction as an alternative heating (and cooling) solution here in the Charleston area, and with some of the tax incentives that come with an installation, are becoming much more affordable for homeowners.

Geothermal systems take advantage of the ground’s natural ability to retain a constant temperature; generally between 55 & 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So even while the outside air temperature fluctuates throughout the year, this underground temperature stays roughly the same. The system taps into that warmer energy and transfers it into your home, exactly how the traditional heat pump takes the warmth from the air and uses it to warm your home.

The source of energy a geothermal heat pump (the technical term for a geothermal unit) draws from, however, is much more reliable because of that constant underground temperature mentioned.

This source of energy is also free and virtually infinite. This means the energy you consume to keep your home warm (or cool) is also essentially free & infinite, driving down monthly electricity bills as much as 70% in some cases. So over time, you’ll be able to recoup your HVAC investment; something that takes much longer than conventional systems.

By installing a geothermal HVAC system, you’ll also save on replacement costs: a traditional system will last about 12-15 years, while a geothermal system (the indoor unit) will last up to 25 years. The underground geothermal equipment can last up to 100. (That’s not a typo by the way, the underground components are really are engineered to last 100 years.)

When In Doubt, Ask A Pro

If you’re still unsure on which direction to go with for your next heating system, you can always contact a heating company near you and let them take a look at your particular situation. An experienced HVAC tech should be able to quickly tell you what’s best, what you can and can’t do, and give you a free estimate for your replacement heating system.

We hope you stay warm this winter whichever choice you make for your next heater, and feel free to contact us if you have any more questions about your HVAC system.

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The Top 3 Heating and Air Conditioning Trends For 2019 In Charleston

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

First of all, we’d like to wish all of our customers, friends, family and followers a wonderful & exciting year ahead in 2019.

With that said and 2019 now fully upon us, let’s take a quick look at the year ahead and review some of the latest trends to look for in the world of HVAC and how you can stay ahead of the curve with your heating and air system.

1. Connected/Smart HVAC Systems Continue To Increase In Popularity

Most homeowners in the Lowcountry who have gone through with an HVAC upgrade the past few years or so most likely are familiar with some of the newer “smart” HVAC apps & devices on the market.

For those unfamiliar with “smart” or connected technology, it essentially gives you a way to interact remotely and collect usage & diagnostic data of your HVAC system. Using apps on your phone, tablet or PC, you can control your system anytime, from anywhere and using advanced data, allow you to granularly optimize run-times.

This freedom of control, operation optimization and diagnostic information allows you always know you’re getting the best performance from your system and if something should go awry, allow your local HVAC company to quickly resolve any issues.

This technology is not only available for residential air systems, but is also rapidly being adopted by commercial HVAC needs.

2. Variable Speed & Ductless Solutions

Every year in the HVAC industry, manufacturers continue to refine ways of increasing efficiency and creating solutions to non-standard applications.

Two kinds of HVAC systems that check both of those boxes and are rapidly being adopted by Lowcountry homeowners are variable speed air conditioners and ductless mini-split systems.

Most traditional HVAC systems operate in with one or more different operating speeds. They either run at 100% power and/or multiple stages at less than 100%. Multiple stage operation is intended to help with efficiency as your system doesn’t always need to operate at full power, so to speak.

While multi-stage systems can help efficiency, a newer operating mode on newer systems called “variable speed” can be significantly more efficient.

Variable speed operation allows your system to run more granularly, or more precisely, to meet the cooling & heating needs of your home. Instead of operating at a “high 100%” or “low 50%” mode, a variable speed HVAC system can adjust its operation to finite percentages. This means your system will consume energy more precisely, ultimately allowing you it to really optimize your energy consumption (and energy bill for that matter).

Along with the rise of variable speed adoption, ductless mini-split air conditioners are on the rise for many homeowners across the Lowcountry.

Ductless mini-splits allow homeowners to cool & heat areas of their home that either don’t have ductwork running to them, or if they want more unique temperature control over different areas of their homes.

In fact, even homeowners that have existing ductwork in their home are making the switch so they can cut out ductwork upkeep from their list of home maintenance tasks. This is especially true for homeowners that have recurring flooding issues (which can devastate an under-home ductwork system).

3. The Rise of Geothermal Heating & Cooling

In 2018 we’ve heard from more and more Lowcountry residents interested in geothermal heating & cooling options and we believe it will continue to rise in popularity in 2019.

State and federal tax incentives, along with longer operational lifetimes and significantly higher efficiencies, geothermal HVAC systems are being adopted now more than ever by forward-thinking Lowcountry homeowners.

Things can change quickly over the course of the year, but we believe the 3 HVAC trends above will help shape the Lowcountry’s HVAC needs for 2019 and beyond.

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Everything You Need To Know About Geothermal Heating & Cooling Systems

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

One of the newest HVAC trends to hit Charleston and all over the Lowcountry are geothermal heating and cooling systems.
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Despite the fact that it’s growing in popularity, geothermal energy in general is still often misunderstood so with this post we hope to help fill in some of those information gaps and hopefully show you why more and more homeowners are making the switch.
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Geothermal Heat Absorption

What Is Geothermal Heating & Cooling and How Does It Work?

Geothermal heating and cooling is the process of using energy stored in the ground (geothermal energy) to heat and cool your home. This geothermal energy is there because the ground absorbs and retains heat coming from the sun (up to 47%), year-round. So while the air temperature above ground may fluctuate greatly throughout the year, the below-ground temperatures remain almost constant due to that heat absorption. This constant temperature means the ground is cooler than air temperatures in the summer and warmer than air temperatures during the winter.

So what geothermal technology does is tap into that near infinite, free stored energy below your home and uses it to heat and cool your home depending on the season.

During the summer, the geothermal system draws the warm air from your home and delivers it to the much cooler temperatures below your home. This is much like a normal air conditioning system but instead of dumping the hot air outside (in more heat), it puts it into the ground where it is much cooler making it run much more efficiently.

During the winter, warm air is pumped up from the much warmer ground to heat your home. There’s no combustion involved like a normal furnace; geothermal heating simply collects the natural, clean warmth from the ground to keep you warm during the holiday seasons.

Geothermal Summer Operation

What Are The Main Benefits Of Geothermal?

One of the biggest benefits of geothermal heating and cooling is efficiency. Geothermal’s high efficiency operation can lead to up to 70% in yearly electricity savings.

Directly related to efficiency, the other major benefit is how geothermal can actually yield you a profit over it’s lifetime. The amount of money you save each month by using geothermal will often be less than payments for installation if financed. This means that each month you end up at a net positive after spending, instead of constant net losses with a traditional HVAC system.

Geothermal technology also lasts much longer traditional HVAC systems (by almost 10 years for the indoor equipment), meaning you’ll be pocketing the net positive savings for several years over normal units.
The underground equipment for geothermal systems last up to 100 years so once it’s in, the only thing you would need to replace is the indoor equipment which itself lasts up to 25 years (versus 12-15 for normal HVAC systems).

Air quality and safety are also top-notch with geothermal systems, as they require no combustion material (that can cause fumes) to operate.

If all of that wasn’t enough, the EPA has listed geothermal as the most environmentally friendly heating and cooling source out there, helping reduce pollution caused by fossil fuel consumption.

Geothermal Winter Operation

How Much Does Geothermal Cost?

Geothermal system costs can vary depending on the home’s individual setup and circumstance. Generally speaking though, some of the upfront costs of installing geothermal will be more than with a traditional system, to be sure.

That being said though, combining the monthly energy savings along with the extended lifetime use of geothermal, you’ll be able to recoup that initial investment whereas with traditional units you’ll never break-even over its lifetime. You’ll also have to pay for a new traditional unit after 15 years, whereas geothermal will last up to 10 years longer, saving you additional expenses down the road.

Long story short, initial costs for geothermal exceed traditional HVAC installation, however you’ll be able to recoup the geothermal investment; that’s not possible with traditional systems.

Geothermal Horizontal Installation

Are There Any Tax Incentives?

Yes! To help offset the initial installation costs and reward homeowners to move toward geothermal HVAC, federal tax credits up to 30% and state tax credits of up to 25% are actively available.

Nearly every homeowner that chooses geothermal takes advantage of these programs so be sure to ask your local HVAC company about them.

WaterFurnace Geothermal Systems

What Are Some Of The Top Manufacturers of Geothermal Tech?

One of the leading producers of geothermal technologies is WaterFurnace. WaterFurnace is probably one of the most well-known names in geothermal for two reasons:

  • 1) their top-of-the-line, industry-leading equipment, and
  • 2) their restrictions on who can install their equipment.

Also, they’ve been around since 1983 so longevity in the market implies they’re one of the go-to suppliers for installers and distributors worldwide.

Geothermal Vertical Installation

Who Can Install Geothermal HVAC Systems in Charleston?

As mentioned above, any proper geothermal equipment manufacturer will restrict installation of their technology to only those that are trained by them. WaterFurnace is no different. They, like most others, absolutely won’t let anyone touch their equipment unless they’ve gone through proper training, conducted by them.

The thinking behind that is that you can produce the best, sharpest equipment in the world, but if it’s not installed correctly it won’t matter. And poor installations reflect poorly on the equipment regardless of how good it is.

This is why, with geothermal especially, you need to make sure whichever company you choose for the installation has gone through the proper training; the manufacturer will be happy to provide you that information.

As you can see, geothermal has significant advantages for homeowners here in the Lowcountry and we hope we’ve covered any questions you may have had about it.

As always, if you have any additional questions don’t hesitate to contact us today; we’ll be happy to provide answers to any geothermal or any other HVAC questions you may have.

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