Once the cold weather hits, many a Richmond, VA homeowner is faced with an important question: Is it time to replace my heating system? If the answer to that question is, "yes," there are some serious decisions to be made..
A simple review of any major HVAC manufacturer's website will show you that heating systems are not created equal. Certain systems are more suited to certain geographic locations, climates, lifestyles, home designs, etc. Your family's comfort - both physically and financially - depends on your ability to select the right heating system for your needs.
Things to Think About When Considering Heating Replacement in Richmond
We recommend consulting with an experienced, licensed HVAC contractor in Richmond to make sure you select a system that makes sense for you. In the meantime, here are some things to consider as you deliberate between different heating systems.
Humidity Is a Factor in Richmond Heating Installation and Service
Regardless of the heating system you select, it's imperative that you replace the outdated system with one that provides whole-home comfort in terms of humidity - as well as temperature. Today's heating and cooling systems come with built-in accessory options that maintain target humidity levels in your home.
Excess humidity can result in everything from mold and structural rot, to respiratory problems and higher heating and cooling bills. On the flip-side, dry air is hard on the skin and lungs as well, and can cause wood fixtures and features to shrink, crack, and split. Installing a system that takes whole-home humidity levels into consideration will improve indoor air quality and your comfort to boot.
Heating Installation: Furnace, Boiler, or Heat Pump?
Richmond's climate - which can make for some freezing, or below-freezing, temperatures - often requires a combination of heat sources for optimal home comfort and energy efficiency. If you are considering replacement of your heating source, consider choosing more than one source for your heating installation in Richmond – one primary source, with at least one more supplementary source for the really cold days.
Most American homes, particularly those built in the past decade or two, rely on a forced-air furnace to supply warm air, via air registers (grills, vents), located throughout the entire home. These furnace systems require ducts, which transport the heated air through wall/crawl spaces to the registers and can be powered by natural gas or fuel oil.
With gas furnaces, a hot surface ignitor ignites the fuel in order to heat a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers heat to the air, which is then forced through the system by a blower. The best gas furnace is economical, with proper insulation and reasonable consumption of fuel.
Furnace sales often fluctuate in direct proportion to electricity versus natural gas versus fuel prices. Don't let yourself fall into that trap. Fuel prices are variable, so it makes more sense to choose a system that fits both short- and long-term plans.
Oil furnace replacement can be a costly affair, but having a new furnace with more than one source of heat can be beneficial on multiple levels, not least of all being the cost reduction over time.
What is an advantage of a forced air furnace?
What are the pros and cons of forced air heating? While we’ve mentioned some disadvantages of forced-air furnaces, these heating systems come with a set of benefits, too. One of them is that you can have a central AC system installed in your home without having to invest in new vents and ductwork. Furthermore, a forced-air furnace can heat up your space relatively quickly, but it may show some inconsistencies in the temperature levels in different spots in your home. Lastly, forced air heating can filter the air, meaning that you won’t have to purchase an additional filtration system.
Like with any other heating system, you have to rely on high-quality furnace service if you want your system to stay in good shape for years to come. Furnace repair can be costly, so it’s advisable that you have your system inspected and serviced regularly to prevent unnecessary issues and expenses.
Boilers (Hot Water Systems, Hydronic Systems)
While a forced air furnace transfers heat via air, boilers transfer heat through hot water. Water is heated and passes through a radiator or other devices that transfer heat into your home. Cooled water returns to the boiler to be reheated. In most cases, boilers are gas-fired. Older, oil-fueled boilers are outdated and being phased out.
Rather than ducts, a boiler uses pipes or tubes to carry water back and forth throughout the house and back to the heating element. Sometimes, this occurs through floors - called radiant floor heating. If have this type of heating system, it's a good practice to set up zones that will ensure you're only using energy to heat/cool occupied areas of the household.
What are the benefits of a boiler for a home heating system?
A boiler uses radiant heating to warm up your home and functions very differently than a forced-air furnace. Advantages of boiler heating systems are numerous and they include:
- They use less energy. Since water transfers heat more effectively than air, boilers are much more efficient than forced-air heating systems and may bring you significant savings in the long run.
- They have long lifespans. Boilers have fewer mechanical moving parts than heat pumps and furnaces which means that they are less likely to break down. In fact, boilers can last up to 30 years if well-maintained.
- They are easy to maintain. Due to their lack of moving parts, boilers require very little maintenance and have fewer issues in general when compared to other systems as long as you rely on dependable Richmond heating experts for annual tune-ups.
- They heat evenly. Boilers produce radiant heat that’s transferred evenly through your home, leaving no cold spots behind. What’s more, boilers can heat up your home faster than forced-air furnaces.
Heat pumps are a great option for homeowners in moderate climates. They heat a home in the winter and cool a home in the summer. Like forced air furnaces, heat pumps use blowers to distribute heated/cooled air throughout the home.
Heat pump systems are efficient because they're using the bulk of the energy they consume to move heat, rather than generate it. That being said, these systems are overwhelmed by extreme cold temperatures because there's no "heat" to remove from the outside air.
Thus, some Richmond-area homeowners find it wise to use a heat pump for their primary heating and cooling needs and use some alternative heat source during extreme cold weather.
What are the advantages of a heat pump?
If you’re on the fence about investing in heat pump installation, you’re probably wondering what benefits you can expect from a new heating system. In addition to providing both heating and cooling, heat pumps bring a number of other advantages, including:
- They are highly efficient. Among all the heating systems currently available on the market, heat pumps have the highest efficiency ratings. This means that heat pumps use less energy and are quite cheap to run.
- They can save you money. Thanks to the high heat pump efficiency, this heating system may significantly cut down on your energy bill. However, having a heat pump installed is no small investment, so consider how long you plan to stay in your current home before you decide.
- They are eco-friendly. Since heat pumps don’t use combustion for generating heat, they can substantially cut down on your carbon emissions. Not only that but they also use the eco-friendly R410A refrigerant that is less harmful to the ozone layer.
- They can improve air quality. Due to the fact that heat pumps aren’t combustion-based, there’s no smoke or fumes released into the air. What’s more, heat pumps have filters that remove dust, mold spores, and allergens from the air.
Geothermal Heat Pumps (Ground-Source Heat Pump)
The sustainable lifestyle movement has made geothermal systems (geothermal heat pumps or ground-source heat pumps) a top contender for eco-conscious homeowners. These systems operate on the same principle as a traditional heat pump with one significant difference - the loop where heat transfer takes place is located underground. So, while air-source heat pumps are susceptible to outdoor temperature fluctuations, ground source heat pumps benefit from earth's below-ground, consistent year-round temperatures.
Geothermal systems are more expensive at the outset because of the underground components. However, these one-time costs are quickly offset by their superb energy-efficiency, which means geothermal systems pay for themselves and then some over their lifetime.
Geothermal heat pumps are an ideal source of heat for Richmond homeowners because they provide an efficient heating and cooling source year-round - including the most extreme hot/cold spells - without any supplemental heat required.
What are the advantages of ground source heat pumps?
Ground source heat pumps are a great option for your Richmond heating needs for several reasons. If you’re looking for a heating system that has high efficiency and, in turn, low energy consumption, geothermal pumps are the perfect choice. With an efficiency rate varying from 300% to 500%, ground source heat pumps can greatly reduce your energy consumption and bring substantial savings in the long run. In addition, they can also keep the humidity levels in your home in check.
How long does a ground source heat pump last? Well, if you have knowledgeable heat pump service experts at your beck and call, your ground source system should stay in great shape for at least 25 years. What’s more, the underground component of the system (the ground heat exchanger) should have a lifespan of around 100 years, so you won’t have to worry about needing expensive heat pump repair.
Solar Heat Systems
Solar heating systems are another option for Richmond residents. These systems typically require only a couple of solar panels. These panels are then used to harness solar energy, which is used to heat either air (for a forced air system) or liquid (for a radiant heat or boiler system) for distribution through the home.
In a climate like ours, your solar heating system would work best when paired with another system so you reap the benefits of high-efficiency heating depending on the weather and temperatures on any given day.
Both geothermal and/or solar heating systems are best for those who plan to stay put for a while, or who prioritize sustainable living tenets that will be appreciated by future home buyers, in terms of cost-efficiency.
What are the advantages of solar thermal energy?
If you choose top-tier solar heating installation in Richmond, VA, your solar heat system will bring you the following benefits:
- Reliable source of energy. Solar energy is renewable and reliable in the long run, allowing you to stay independent in your energy use and avoid increases in electricity costs.
- Long term savings. While solar installation requires a substantial initial investment, relying on a solar heat system can greatly cut down on your electricity usage and provide you with significant savings in the long run.
- Safe & eco-friendly. Solar heating systems produce no toxic chemicals and harmful gases. Since no burning is needed, there are no carbon emissions present in using solar thermal systems.
- Low maintenance needs. After the installation, a solar heat system will be relatively low maintenance, needing only annual check-ups. What’s more, solar thermal systems are less complex than PV solar panels, so they rarely require expensive and difficult repairs.
Consult with HVAC Pros Before Making Your Choice
While you could browse the web to find a comprehensive home heating systems comparison, it’s always a good idea to consult with a licensed, experienced heating contractor in Richmond, VA before making a final determination. At Howell’s Heating & Air, we go to great lengths to homeowners choose the best heating system for their particular needs. To help you decide, we use superb industry-specific software that analyzes factors such as:
Your home's directional exposure on the lot
Existing passive solar design (if relevant)
Specific building materials
Household comfort preferences
Current appliances and lighting fixtures (all of which generate heat and need to be taken into account)
Once we’ve analyzed your specific situation thoroughly, we input the gathered data and get immediate results, allowing us to recommend specific makes and models, which can help you choose the best heating system for your needs and budget. We do all of this and more to make sure that your heating system ticks all the boxes and allows you and your family to live comfortably all year long.
Learn More About a Heating System Replacement in Richmond, VA
Interested in replacing your current heating system? Want to discuss the options for a future replacement so you can begin planning your heat pump or furnace installation? Contact the HVAC experts at Howell's Heating & Air. We've provided honest, down-to-earth advice and heating service in Richmond, VA for more than 50-years. We promise to steer you in the right direction, installing and servicing a heating system that provides efficient heat all winter long.
No matter which heating system you choose for your home, you can count on us to install it with unmatched precision and expertise. Not only that but we can also provide you with the foremost heating system service, maintenance, and repair services in the area. Using cutting-edge technology and high-quality tools, our HVAC experts will make sure your heating system keeps you warm for winters to come.
We're the leading contractors in the region, offering professional assistance to our neighbors for years. We can provide absolutely the best heating service in Ashland, highly reliable and efficient heating repair service in Glen Allen and reputable heating installation in Mechanicsville. We're also the #1 contractors for heating service in Midlothian, the leading experts in heating repair in Short Pump and the foremost specialists in heating replacement in Tuckahoe. Finally, you can also count on us to help you with expert heating repair service in Lakeside, so schedule an appointment now!