Most all my life I’ve lived in homes heated with natural gas. Nice stuff, comes into the house through a pipe, burns in the furnace, makes warm air. Have the furnace checked yearly, good to go.
When I looked at mobile home units, my choices were electric or propane. I’ve been in propane heated houses, and it’s OK, but not so warm as natural gas. Don’t laugh; there’s a difference between warm heat and not so warm heat.
The units available last June were this electric unit, and a propane unit. I chose this one because electricity comes in through the electric line, no tromping out to check the meter on the propane tank.
I looked it all over. I saw an air conditioner outside, an electric furnace in the laundry room, an electric hot water tank in the walk in closet. I asked the manager, what I could expect for an electric bill.
“About a hundred dollars a month, if you’re careful.” That is astoundingly low.
We moved here in July. It was hot, and the air ran all the time. The bill was about sixty dollars. The next month was hotter, the bill was eighty eight dollars. September, cooler, back to sixty. October, we didn’t heat much, forty dollars. November, the furnace ran a lot, back to eighty dollars.
So, December was moving along as usual, until that polar vortex slipped on down. It is cold. There was that little thermostat mishap, adding to my misunderstanding of the heating system. The last week before the vortex, the temperature hovered in the twenties, day and night, and the furnace ran a lot.
But, the air was cool. I had Dan, the maintenance guy, take a look. And, I learned about heat pumps. Yes, that air conditioner is a heat pump, and they are super efficient, in their own way, and not the gas way I was used to.
When the thermostat is asking for heat, the heat pump extracts it from the outside air and sends it in. Dan aimed his heat gun into several registers, and the air coming out at the floor is in the seventies. It feels cooler because it’s cooler than body temperature.
My lifelong habit is to turn down the heat at night and increase it in the morning. I made a four degree change here, between day and night. That will all change tonight.
Yesterday Dan proved to me that increasing the thermostat two degrees will cause the electric furnace to turn on when it is cold enough outside to discourage the heat pump. “Just like burning money,” he announced. It was around ten degrees outside at the time. “Don’t change it,” he advised. “Run a constant temperature when it’s so cold out.”
But, of course, I would learn the hardest way possible. I lowered the thermostat to sixty two overnight. I heard the heat pump running whenever I woke up. This morning, I raised the thermostat one degree, ate breakfast, went to work. Three hours later the temperature was unchanged.
Outside we were up from two degrees to seven. Just as I was leaving an hour later, the temperature rose to sixty three. Triumphantly, I raised it another degree and went to my appointment. On returning the house was---sixty three. It was ten degrees outside. In six hours the heat pump increased the house temperature one degree.
I got it, Dan. I punched in sixty six and listened to dollar bills burn for half an hour, though I felt warm air rising all around. It’s sixty six now, and the heat pump is maintaining. Interesting stuff, this new heat.