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Ron Graber
Ron Graber is the member services and communication specialist for Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative. He is a trained energy auditor, and provides advice on energy efficiency, conservation and renewable generation. Ron can be contacted at rong@heartland-rec.com.
2011-05-01 10:46:00
Efficient ways to heat and cool the home
Answer: A home’s heating and cooling system accounts for more than half of the utility costs each year. Making smart choices when selecting the right system will have a lasting impact on your family’s finances. Inexpensive furnaces, including propane, gas and resistance electric units, are the cheapest to install, but can lead to high utility bills when the temperature drops. The most efficient way to heat and cool your home is with an air source or ground source (geothermal) heat pump. Let’s look at the numbers: An air source heat pump will produce a million BTUs of heat for only $11.38. A ground source heat pump does even better at $7.62 per million BTUs. That same million BTUs of heat costs more than $15 with natural gas (at the current price of $1 a therm) and almost $27 with propane (at today’s $2 a gallon). A standard electric furnace using resistance heat (just like your toaster or space heater) will use $26.67 worth of electricity to produce that same million BTUs. Question: Why are heat pumps so much more efficient? Answer: The key to a heat pump’s great numbers is that a heat pump isn’t actually creating heat like a traditional furnace does. Instead, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another…just like your refrigerator or air conditioner. A heat pump collects heat from the air or from the ground and moves it into your home. Heat pumps do double duty as a central air conditioner. They can also cool your home by collecting the heat inside your house and effectively pumping it outside. A heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30% to 40%. The best heat pumps are geothermal, or ground source heat pumps, because they take advantage of the constant temperature of the earth, which is warmer than the air above it during the winter, and cooler than the air in the summer. By exchanging heat with the earth through a heat exchanger, your home is kept comfortable with very little electricity. Heat pumps can heat, cool and supply the house with hot water. Relative to air-source heat pumps, they are quieter, last longer, need little maintenance and do not depend on the temperature of the outside air. The additional costs of a geothermal heat pump system are returned to you in energy savings in 5–10 years. System life is estimated at 25 years for the inside components and 50+ years for the ground loop. Significant federal tax credits, discounted electric rates as well as rebates from electric utilities make this a great time to install a ground-source heat pump and start saving money.
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