System Types in Clarksville, IN, Jeffersonville, IN, Louisville, KY and the Metro Region
SYSTEM TYPE: Furnaces
The fuel for the furnace may be natural gas, propane or fuel oil. There is basically no operational or efficiency difference between a gas furnace and a propane furnace. Oil furnaces are usually less efficient, not because they do not make high efficiency oil furnaces but because most of these furnaces are older, less efficient models. (An important note about propane furnaces: make certain that you do not let the fuel level get so low that the furnace sucks in the impurities from the bottom of the tank.
If you let the tank get so low that the furnace cannot light then you will have to purge the air from the line. Similarly, if you ever open your natural gas line you will end up with air in the line. This will prevent the furnace from firing until it is purged.) Some people simply have what they call an electric furnace, which is a blower with electric resistance coils. This is an oversized version of a space heater and the least efficient form of heat. There are, of course, several other types of heating systems such as boilers, ceiling cable heat, and potable hot water coils.
SYSTEM TYPE: Air Conditioners
The air conditioning portion of your split system is composed of two components, a condenser outside and an evaporator coil above the blower on the furnace. These two components are connected in a loop with two copper tubes. Inside the condenser is a compressor that circulates gas through the copper tubes. The gas absorbs the heat from inside the house and moves it to a coil in the condenser where it is transferred to outside.
SYSTEM TYPE: Heat Pumps
A heat pump is a condenser with a reversing valve, which means that it can run backwards. In the cooling season a heat pump operates exactly like a condenser (an air conditioner), in heating season it runs backwards, transferring the heat from outside into the house. As unbelievable as it sounds, a heat pump can transfer heat from outside even when it is below freezing, and do it more efficiently that even a high efficiency gas furnace. All heat pump systems have a back-up heat source in case the outdoor unit needs assistance maintaining the desired temperature inside. A traditional heat pump system uses an electric furnace for the back-up heat.
This has always been a bit of an irony because it pairs the most efficient primary heat source with the least efficient back-up heat source. However, when there is no alternate fuel available, this is the only option for an all-electric house. A far better option exists when there is a gas source and we can put a 95% efficient furnace in for the back-up heat. This creates what is called a dual fuel or a hybrid system. This is really the best choice for the vast majority of homeowners for a variety of reasons, the most important being that it is a very affordable, extremely efficient system.
SYSTEM TYPE: Geothermal
A geothermal system is actually nothing more than a heat pump system, however instead of using outside air to transfer heat from the condenser coil it uses ground water. Because ground water is always the same, cool temperature, the heat transfer operation is very efficient. The drawback is the cost, about $6000 per ton for a complete system with ductwork: in addition to the heat pump system you need a water loop system installed, and, because of supply & demand economics, the cost of the equipment is considerably higher than a traditional heat pump system. On the plus side the water loop system is much easier to install now than in the past, and can be tailored to almost any property.
SYSTEM TYPE: Modular Homes
Modular homes use the same types of systems and have the same options available. The problem with modular home systems is that the furnace has to be fire rated for mobile homes. This limits the choice of manufacturers and, because of supply & demand economics, makes the cost of the equipment considerably higher than conventional residential furnaces. Another problem is that many, if not most, modular homes have an electric furnace with air conditioning. An electric furnace by itself is the least efficient form of heat. The easiest solution is to replace the air conditioner with a heat pump, this way you get far lower utility costs without having to convert to a gas furnace.
SYSTEM TYPE: Mini-Splits
Mini-split systems are an interesting addition to the options available for heating and cooling a single room. They are the same as the split systems described above, in that there is an outdoor unit (either a condenser or heat pump) and an indoor unit with a blower and a coil. They are available with a decent SEER rating and they use R-410a refrigerant. The two pieces of equipment are still connected together with copper refrigeration lines and electric lines, and, the indoor unit is controlled with a remote control. The difference is that the indoor unit has a low profile design and hangs on the wall.
The basic Goodman system is a very affordable unit. Other manufacturers make decorative indoor units that look like a piece of artwork, of course these units are considerably more expensive. Another variation available from some manufacturers is a multi-unit mini-split. These systems have just one outdoor unit servicing two or more indoor units. These types of systems are very expensive. There are many applications where a mini-split or a multi-unit mini-split would be desirable, such as a hard-to-cool second floor room or an historical structure where installing ductwork is not an option. Bear in mind that we will still have to run line-sets connecting the indoor unit(s) to the outdoor unit.
SYSTEM TYPE: Through-The-Wall Units
These are self-contained heating and cooling units like you see in many hotel rooms, though much smaller than the really large ones you see in older hotel rooms (they are 42” wide & 16” tall). They are available with either condensers or heat pumps, have a decent SEER rating and use R-410a refrigerant. They are very affordable units and a great solution for second floor rooms or additions like a sunroom. These units will require you to have someone frame the wall opening and will require a 208 volt electrical receptacle near the bottom right hand corner.