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The Hot and Cold about Heat Pumps

As we embark on a journey of home remodeling, we've been giving lots of thought as to which type of appliances to install.  It can all be overwhelming when you think of it all at once.  So for now we'll start with heating and cooling; Catherine and I wonder:

We've just decided that our big project for the year is to replace our ancient electric furnace with something new.  Going green would be great, provided it doesn't blow our budget!  A heat pump seems like a great device, but the reviews vary a lot.  Does anyone out there have a heat pump in their home?  Do you like it? Does it perform well? Do you have gas or electric furnace backup?  I'm wondering if they live up to the hype as well - will we see a drop in our nearly $400 heating bill from last December?

Any other setup that anyone would like to recommend?


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I'll confess that I've never even heard of a heat pump. But I do have another suggestion. The Energy Trust of Oregon will come to your home for free and go over the whole place, and give you all kinds of suggestions for the best, most efficient, green ways to heat. Once you get their energy assessment, you also qualify for rebates on certain types of equipment.

We recently decided to replace our elderly furnace and hot water heater, and the woman from the Energy Trust was really helpful (and super nice). She also alerted us to things we could do to save heat that we hadn't even considered.

You'd want to contact the ET's Home Energy Savings Program at 866-311-1822 or check out their website, www.energytrust.org

We have an older heat pump that was installed before we bought the house. It is a small house to heat, about 900 square feet and we are warm enough in the winter. Problem is that we get very few hot showers all winter long. Summer time we get hot showers because we are not using the heat. I am not sure how we can fix this but it might be something to ask about when you are shopping around. Ours is old though and I am sure they work better now. As for the bill, ours is small even with our gas water heater and the heat bill.

since you are replacing, i would explore natural gas. there are so many rebates out there plus when you use natural gas, all it creates is water and oxygen. in oregon 80% of our electricity still comes from buring coal. bluck. plus once you have gas, you can do a gas clothes dryer, gas water heater and other smart ways to cut back those bills.

we called nw natural and a nice rep came out and let us know about conversion and prices. we're doing a furnace and an on-demand water heater. ahhh.

leah - just so you know; burning natural gas does create CO2 in addition to water. Oxygen is not created when you burn natural gas. We do use a gas furnace and also a gas dryer and cook top. We've switched to wind for our power according to PGE. We're still researching a heat pump as an energy efficient way of heating/cooling our house after our remodel.

A heat pump is a terrific way to go! We live in the country and have an electric furnace (which functions as your air handler and back-up heat source) because gas was not an option. It obviously functions as a heat and cold air source. However it has nothing to do with your hot water so the person who is taking cold showers might want to have their hot water heater serviced or replaced. Our electric bills are extremely low. And definitely get energy tax credit and refunds for updating your equipment.

Another thing to add to the natural gas emissions discussion. As someone else mentions, CO2 is released, but it's much cleaner than coal. Natural gases wells are large and displace wildlife such as pronghorn antelope in Montana, but again lesser of many evils in many ways. It actually releases a fair amount of NOx into the immediate environment, so make sure you are running a vent when you cook with gas or have any other open flame(etc.). NOx can cause asthma, developmental delays and other health problems.

We installed a 90%+ efficiency heat pump with gas furnace back up last summer. I would strongly recommend it. The heat pump is more efficient down to an outside temperature of about 36 degrees farenheit. At that point kick in the furnace. I use 100% wind/geothermal option on my electricity with PGE so it is totally a green way to go. If you have an old oil furnace you could convert it to Biodiesel very easily - just check with your HVAC contractor that it can support a heat pump (it still runs the blower to move the air through your vents). Heat pumps are definitely a good way to go and you can get a tax deduction if you get a new high efficiency one.

My Father in-law talked to two HVAC contractors about heat pumps. The really important thing is to have your house well-sealed for a heat pump to be effective, otherwise you might be offsetting any savings with loss of heat/cool to the environment. With older homes not being as airtight as new ones, it would be good to ensure that doors and windows are sealing well before going the heat pump route.

Shetha is absolutely correct. I have one in my home and it works great, but have met with people who didn't have proper sealing with heat pumps and...they just didn't work well for them, I'm sad to say.

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