Going Green with HVAC Strategies
The idea of going green with HVAC strategies brings a lot of different images to mind. For some people it means their family or business having a smaller carbon footprint. For others it means using renewable energy sources. For still others, it means Bruce Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk and moving HUUUUGE turbines in the basement.
It’s time to get green energy away from the concept stage and on to doing real work in your home. Not only does a green HVAC strategy make sense for the environment, but it also can mean green for your
pocketbook. Often it will take some time to recoup the costs but it will be worthwhile in the long run.
Renewable energy conversation often begins with a discussion of solar, wind and geothermal energy sources. The number of homes heated by solar panels has increased 1,000 percent between 2006 and 2013. The Department of Energy predicts that homes heated by solar will reach 1 million by 2020.
Wind power is gaining in popularity as well. Over the last five years, it has generated 30 percent of all new capacity. Wind power now exceeds 25 percent of total electricity production in Iowa and South
Geothermal, another renewable energy source, is growing slower than solar and wind power, but still provides heating and cooling for three million Americans.
Geothermal is often overlooked as a green HVAC strategy. Perhaps it’s because people think it relates to volcanoes or underground steam vents that will send their house blasting into the sky when something goes wrong. Instead geothermal uses a heat pump to draw heat from the ground outside. Its use is gaining popularity across the US and Canada.
Nearly half of the sun’s rays get absorbed into the top 500 feet of earth. Geothermal is taking energy that is in the earth’s upper crust and transferring it into the home and business for heating and cooling.
Government grants or rebates are sometimes available for this type of work.
Green HVAC practices are paying off big at West Chester State University in the Philadelphia area. One official predicted savings of 40 percent in savings on heat and 20 percent savings on electricity for the school during its early use.
How Geothermal Works
Green HVAC practices using geothermal can work by sinking pipes into the ground. The pipes hold water which is warmed by ambient heat in the ground. The water is pumped to a heat pump which
blows air across coils warmed by the water and directs the warm air into the various ducts of the house. The heat is also used to warm the water tank to make hot water available for household
Other systems use copper pipes holding refrigerant that are buried in the ground. The pipes absorb the warmth from the ground and are brought into a heat pump to generate warm air for the house. The
heat pumps have a compressor and expansion valve to manipulate the refrigerant. When the system raises the temperature of the refrigerant it heats up and the fan blowing across the heated refrigerant creates warm air for use in heating the home. When the pressure is lowered the refrigerant returns to its liquid state and is forced through a small hole back to the pipes into the ground where it can once again absorb heat and return the heat to the system.
During the hotter months, a geothermal system simply dumps the heat from the house into the ground
instead of trying to force it into the already hot air outside.
Easy Decisions For The Homeowner
What if you, as a homeowner, are unable to afford the costs of installing a new solar, wind or geothermal system into your home?
Are there simple ways to use green tactics for your current HVAC system?
First, a no-brainer. Regularly change the air filter in your furnace. Older filters have collected particles, as they are supposed to. It takes more energy to pump air through dirty filters. It will save you green and give you cleaner air.
Also, make sure your house is properly insulated. The
recommend insulation for attics in Maryland and Virginia is R38 to R60.
Most importantly, allow your HVAC technician to give you a tune-up for the new season coming up. He will make sure that the equipment is running as efficiently as possible. His suggestions probably will provide additional comfort and cost savings.
Finally, if your HVAC system is old or underpowered, consider replacement with a new energy-efficient system. Your HVAC technician will recommend a unit suitable for the size, requirements and weather conditions where you live.