You might also like

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I didn’t come in from the cold yesterday, or, my heat pump learning curve


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.



25 comments:

  1. Sigh. Modern conveniences so often aren't. And the learning curve can be very steep indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh- I hear you. I have natural gas, too, and love it. I know that electric heat is usually a lot more expensive. Good luck! xo Diana

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hari om
    I couldn't survive the vost of electric heating here... love my natural gas. I guess you'll find your balance point, and I guess rather than monthly, think in terms of yearly costs - averaged. YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
  4. We're all electric except for the fireplaces and the stove which are propane. Cooling is relatively reasonable, heating is not. We don't get as cold as you so we don't run the heat at night. But if we set the heat to go up more than 2 degrees at a time the system thinks it's an emergency and switches to emergency heat which truly burns dollars. So we have to raise the temperature incrementally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When it was not so cold I could do the two degree changes, but this next to zero stuff is really hard to suck heat from, I see.

      Delete
  5. We use heat pumps too and are pleased with their performance and cost to run.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We are lucky, living in a tropical country we don't have heating appliances. Our only worry is tropical cyclones and ones headed our way now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Keeping warm in the winter is not always easy. At least we no longer have to run from our beds to the space heater in the living room to be able to get dressed in the morning without the danger of frostbite.

    ReplyDelete
  8. We pay ridiculous amounts of money to heat our old house. We have options to heat: oil, electricity run geothermal, even some wood. I am NOT a fan of how the geothermal heat pump heats our house because it feels like cool air coming out of the registers, and I know what you mean about not turning the heat up and down. It has to stay constant. Oh, to live in a place where you don't have to worry about sub zero temperatures. -Jenn

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is the first I'm living on a heat pump and I never really feel hot air come from it. It feels cool but for some reason the house will always stay the temp I set it too. If it didn't the thermostat would read a different (colder) temp.

    ReplyDelete
  10. We had a heat pump for 5 years, and I never did feel like the house was warm in cold weather. I like my gas furnace better. But you get used to these things. We did.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Interesting. My favorite heat is hot water. We have forced hot air from a gas furnace...need to run a humidifier, or you get dry itchy skin.

    ReplyDelete
  12. No heating or air conditioning for us....gone are the days of oil fired radiators and wood fires...

    ReplyDelete
  13. The new heat sounds a lot like the new math we were taught back in the sixties. Same numbers, totally different use. Get your cardigan, fuzzy slippers, and hot bag (or hot water bottle) ready - they'll add to your comfort immeasurably at low cost.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Once you have gas heat and a gas stove, it is hard to accept anything other. Eventually you will get used to what you have but always keep the sweaters close.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I had trouble with my airconditioner not heating well all last winter until I finally remembered I had forgotten to clean the filters. Once I did that, I was able to feel the air warming me right away.
    I remember growing up with only natural gas for everything and I really do prefer it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I prefer gas heat over electric. We have electric now but hopefully we won't see the temps you are having so I should feel comfortable. It is a never ending battle to adjust the heat and the air conditioner in summer. I am so "cheap" I don't want the utility companies to have any more of my hard earned money than necessary. I'll tolerate a bit of cold weather and a bit of warm weather rather than turn up the heat or turn down the air. I am not a happy camper when either one is running, but we do need to maintain a sense of being somewhat comfortable. Good luck with your continued learning curve!

    betty

    ReplyDelete
  17. I do miss natural gas. we have propane out here and it's more expensive. we set the thermostat to 65 when we go to bed and 68 while we are up. and it doesn't feel all that warm. another thing missing was the space heater (city house did not have central air) that we could cozy up to for some immediate warmth. solved both those problems...not feeling warm and no space heater...by getting an electric heat dish. that baby makes our sitting area nice and cozy.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Gas heat here. Electric air. Our summer electric bills are steep, but we probably have the most comfortable arrangement. Since Old Man is so thin and tends to be cold often, daughter bought him a Presto heat dish at Costco. It is like sitting in front of a fireplace. Paperwork claims it is much more economical to run than some electric heaters.

    ReplyDelete
  19. When we lived in Upstate NY we heated with propane. I was always cold in the winter and it cost a ridiculous amount, even on the budget plan.

    ReplyDelete
  20. All sounds a bit of a nightmare to me Joanne.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love the way you tackle and learn new things.Must keep you young.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ah, the heat pump: The first time I had one, we were always cold. I understood about setting it and not changing it, but we still froze. When we decided to move and build our house, we spoke to the builder and said, NO heat pump. He said that the reason we had always been cold was that the heat pump had been chosen for its air conditioning capacity and not for its heating capacity. He promised us that he would get a heat pump of the correct capacity for our new house and we would love it. He was right.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  23. Getting used to and learning about heat pumps would boggle my mind. Glad you have some excellent advice and help.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I read about the bitter cold on the mainland. I don't envy you.

    ReplyDelete