For many people, energy efficiency has become a top focus with regard to home heating. There are plenty of reasons why. A movement toward green energy and an interest in environmentally sound methods of heating aren’t small factors. Rising fuel costs have also forced homeowners to look for alternative methods of generating heat energy, and this has led directly to the increased popularity of technologically advanced methods such as air-source heating.
How does air-source heating work, though? Why is it so energy efficient? Is it really better for heating your home than traditional fuel heating? We’ll explain below.
What Does It Mean To Be Energy Efficient?
When it comes to home heating, “efficiency” refers to the amount of heat energy a method can generate compared to the fuel it consumes. Essentially, it is the return you get on your investment. Each method has a different measure of efficiency.
When fuel is consumed, some of it is turned into heat energy, and some of it is lost as waste. A very efficient method of heating produces very little waste, while one that burns a lot of fuel but doesn’t generate much heat is considered very inefficient. This efficiency is measured by the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) standard. It calculates the amount of energy that is converted into useable heat, which is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs.
If you have an older furnace that hasn’t been replaced in a while, chances are it’s only 70 percent efficient or less. Some furnaces are only slightly over 50 percent efficient and wouldn’t pass an AFUE rating if they were tested today. Modern furnaces that utilize advanced technology for maximum efficiency carry the government’s ENERGY STAR rating label and convert 90 percent or more of their fuel to useable heat energy.
Air-Source Heating: The Basics
Air-source heating is among the most efficient methods of keeping your home warm in the winter. This is because it has a unique feature that sets it apart from most other methods of heating: it doesn’t actually require a fuel source to burn.
Most heating methods need to consume something to generate heat. Sometimes, this energy source is coal, sometimes it is natural gas. Electricity can also be used, although this is one of the least efficient ways of generating heat.
The great benefit of air-source heating, however, is that it actually utilizes ambient heat energy that already exists in the environment. It can absorb this heat from outside of the home and then transfer it inside, warming up the home but bypassing the cost of heat generation entirely. Air-source heat pumps are powered by electricity themselves, but a key difference between them and electrical furnaces is that they do not use the electricity to generate the heat, simply to power the mechanism that transfers ambient heat energy from place to place.
How the Technology Works
The technology behind air-source heating is not that different from a considerably older and more common piece of technology: the refrigerator. A refrigerator keeps food cold with the use of refrigerant coils, which contain a special type of chemical that can absorb heat energy. When air moves across these refrigerant coils, the cooling chemical draws the energy in. This causes the coils to heat up and the air to cool down. This means that the heat energy, which now heats the coils, can be transferred wherever you want. In a refrigerator, it’s vented away, leaving the contents of the fridge nice and cold.
With air-source heating, the opposite is true: the cooling chemical is passed through a compressor. This compressor has the effect of increasing the already existing heat energy. It then moves the refrigerant into another part of the mechanism, known as a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers the heat energy into the air. The air is then circulated through your home using a fan. In this way, your air-source heating pump heats your home without having to devote any energy toward generating heat.
Other Ways Air-Source Heating Can Keep Your Home Warm
Of course, if you’re asking, how does air-source heating work, you might have connected it in your mind with some alternative methods of heating that don’t require the use of a large fan and complicated ductwork. There are other methods of air-source heating, and some of them may actually increase energy efficiency and save even more money on your energy bill.
Underfloor heating is a method of warming the home that doesn’t require ductwork of any kind. Instead, a series of pipes is installed underneath the floors of the home. The air-source heating warms water instead of air, and this air is pumped through this system of pipes. The warm water heats up the floor, and the heat energy then radiates into the air and warms the entire building. Many homeowners love this method because it means no more walking around on freezing cold floors.
Occasionally, air-source heating can be connected to convection heating methods as well. Instead of using a fan, heat is radiated directly into the room. This is perfect if you want to use a smaller heater that is designed for heating only one room, as opposed to the entire house at once.
For More Information
If you are interested in this energy-efficient method of heating your home, your next step should be to contact a reputable HVAC professional, such as an established company like Entek. We can discuss with you whether this advanced method of heating is practical for your home. We will also be able to provide you with a quote if you are interested in moving forward with installation. Finally, of course, we can install and maintain your new air-source heating system.