Authored by Mitchell Bailey, republished from Indoor Comfort News’ April 2024 issue.

In my last article, we compared the cost to run a heat pump as opposed to a 90+ furnace. In that article, we compared COP to AFUE and the cost to make a million BTU’s when using natural gas and when using electricity. The savings were pronounced, and it really pencils out for customers to switch from a gas furnace to a heat pump based on their utility rates and what it costs per therm of natural gas. What about the air conditioning side- how do we show savings comparing the old system to a new system?

Actually, we can calculate fairly accurately an approximate savings per season and then calculate the savings over the system lifetime, which for an air conditioner is 15 years. We need four things: the size of the old system, the cooling degree days for the location, the estimated SEER of the old system, and the average cost per kilowatt from the utility company. For the new system, we need the same four things. This is the formula we are going to use:

Size in BTU’s/h X Cooling Degree Days Per Season ÷ SEER X Rate/ Kilowatt ÷ 1,000 = Cost per Season

All we have to do is assemble our numbers to calculate the savings using the following to obtain those numbers.

  1. Size is easy; we can get that from the model number of the equipment (for example, a D&N model number 565BJX060 is a 5-ton unit, which is 60,000 BTU’s).
  2. The cooling degree days per year is also easy; we can look it up on the internet by going here and putting in your zip code. There is a section on this calculator to enter your location and then you will see the first set of numbers, which are the 30-year average (1961-1990); for my zip code of 95351, it is 1318 DD.
  3. Approximate SEER of the old equipment is also easy if we know when the equipment was manufactured, and we factor in the age of the equipment based on some assumptions about the system degradation over time. Here is the formula from the Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the State of Texas on the best practices and SEER rating on older equipment. For example, if you are assessing a 16-year-old HVAC system that had an original SEER of 10, you would calculate: SEER = (10)(1-.01)16 = (10)(.99)16 = (10)*(.851458) = 8.5146 is the current SEER of the existing unit. To make it simple, I use this chart (see Figure 1) to plug in the approximate SEER of the old equipment.

4. Your kilowatt rate for the utility is also easily searchable. Here are some of the current rates depending on your utility (these are just a few of the utility companies in California; a quick search for the utility in an area only takes a few seconds):

  • PG&E: $0.462/kWh
  • SCE: $0.367/kWh
  • SDGE: $0.424/ kWh
  • SMUD: $0.146/kWh
  • Modesto Irrigation District: $0.1914/kWh
  • Turlock Irrigation District: $0.1693/kWh
  • Merced Irrigation District: $0.2085/kWh
  • Lodi Electric: $0.2154/kWh

Once we have assembled all the data, we can then calculate the cost to run the old system and then compare that to the calculated cost to run the new system. We subtract the usage with average temperatures. If it is a cooler year, the savings are less, and if the customer does not run the system like a typical homeowner, the savings are less, but the opposite holds true: if the weather is warmer than an average year, and the customer likes their home cooler, then they will save even more.

It is obvious that new equipment will save the customer money. What will give you an edge is knowing the numbers and coming up with an amount that the customer could potentially save. So take the time and get the data for your area and create a form or spreadsheet to show the savings to your customer. If you would like, you can email me for a copy of the savings sheet that I use and then modify it for your company to calculate how much the customer can save.

Authored by Mitchell Bailey, republished from Indoor Comfort News’ March 2024 issue.

Which is more effcient, a 95% AFUE natural gas furnace, or a heat pump with a HSPF of 9.0? A better question to ask is: which will cost less to run over a typical heating season? The answer will depend on what rates the customer is paying for energy. You cannot directly compare gas that is purchased by the therm to electricity that is purchased by the kilowatt. However, there is a simple solution: determine what the cost for each form of energy would be to produce a million BTU’s/H.

With furnaces, it is an easy calculation. A therm is 100,000 BTU’s, therefore it takes 10-therms to make a million BTU’s. However, we have to consider the efficiency of the furnace, because not all the heat actually gets into the home. Depending on the efficiency, a percentage of the heat is exhausted with the flue gasses. There is a direct relationship between the AFUE and percentage of efficiency of a furnace. A furnace with an 80 AFUE rating is 80% efficient, while a furnace with an AFUE of 95 is 95% efficient. The next step is to then take the cost per therm and multiply by 10 and then multiply that by the reciprocal of the efficiency of the furnace (0.93 ÷ 1 = 1.075). Example: I have a 93% AFUE furnace, and natural gas at $2.53 per therm. Thus: $2.53 (therm) X 10 X 1.075 = $27.20 to make a million BTU’s. If the furnace was 80%, then it would be $2.53 (therm) X 10 X 1.25 = $31.63 to make a million BTU’s.

For heat pumps, we do not use HSPF; we use COP to calculate the cost to produce a million BTU’s. COP or Coefficient of Performance is the amount of BTU’s produced by a heat pump, divided by the watts required to produce those BTU’s, multiplied by BTU’s that a watt of electricity can make (3.412 BTU’s per watt). The trick is knowing what COP to use. Fortunately, many manufacturers have published data on their heat pumps based upon certain ARI standard-capacity rating conditions with one standard rating of COP at 47° DB outdoor and another at 17° DB outdoor.

For example, the combination of this 3-ton Trane 4TWR6036N1 heat pump with a Trane TAMXB0C48V41 Air Handler (AHRI #210700291) can be looked up through Trane’s website and would show this 3-ton Trane system has a COP 47 of 3.90 and COP 17 at 2.60 (see Figure One).

The big variable is the amount of BTU’s the unit will produce at these temperatures; at 47°, it will produce 30,800 but only use 2.31 kilowatts, while at 17° it will produce 21,400 BTU’s. The calculation for COP is the BTU’s ÷ (3.412 (BTU’s in a watt) X the COP), thus 30,800 ÷ (3.412 X 3.90) = 2314 watts or 2.31 kilowatts. So, by knowing the COP Figure One, we can divide a million BTU’s to get the total watts needed to make that million BTU’s and then multiply that by the kilowatt rate. For this particular unit, it would look like this: 1,000,000 BTU’s ÷ (3.412 X 3.90) = 75,150 watts ÷ 1,000 (convert to kilowatts) = 75.15 kilowatts.

We then can take the average cost per kilowatt for the utility where the system is installed times the total watts to calculate the cost to make a million BTU’s. For example, the average kilowatt rate for Modesto Irrigation District is $0.24, then it would cost $18.04 to make a million BTU’s at 3.90 COP. If you compare the cost from the furnace above, you can see it costs less to run a heat pump to make a million BTU’s than for even a 93% efficient furnace, which equates to 57% less to for the heat pump to make a million BTU’s. If you did the calculation at the low COP at COP 17, the cost would still be cheaper by 0.14 cents.

Another factor is the fact that the biggest variable for energy is prices for natural gas. Natural gas prices are constantly changing while electricity rates increase each year but stay relatively steady. Last January of 2023, natural gas hit $3 per therm, while electric rates did not change. Many customers had bills that almost doubled due the cold weather and high cost per therm for natural gas. This is another reason to switch to a heat pump and ditch the gas furnace: electric rates are more stable. What is the most expensive fuel to heat your home? Answer: LPG. LPG is expensive compared to natural gas; it is a no-brainer making the switch to a heat pump if your customer has LPG. A good average COP you can use is 3.35; your average heat pump will rarely be less than this for the COP 47.

As energy costs skyrocket and your customers’ budgets become stretched, it benefits you and your customer if you know the real costs and savings. So do a little research on the equipment you are setting, find the COP 47, find the average electric rate for your utility, find the current cost per therm, and show them the savings they can expect by switching to a heat pump. Don’t do it to save the planet, do it to save them money! Saving the planet is just a consequence.

This article was written for folks in the HVAC industry, but of course, customers can learn a lot from this as well when it comes to considering which avenue they ought take for their next heating system. Is your contractor taking these things into consideration? Can they show you the calculations they’ve made behind the energy savings they’ve promised? Bailey’s Air Heroes is always happy to provide a Calculated Savings Sheet; request that your technician fill one out for you at your next appointment.

Attention, good folks of Turlock, Ceres, Hughson, and so many other surrounding areas! Whether you’re a long-time holder of our Peace of Mind Agreement or new to the Bailey’s Air Heroes family, customers with a Turlock Irrigation District account can once again this year get a rebate check of $50 just for having their system serviced.

As your electricity provider, TID has a vested interest in helping you reduce your power consumption- especially in the peak hours of the hottest days when everybody’s air conditioner is working overtime to beat the heat. And they know- one of the best ways to do that is professional maitenance service to ensure your A/C is cooling as efficiently and effectively. A win for TID, and a win for your wallet!

Let Bailey’s Air Heroes take all the work out of the equation- schedule your maintenance with us and we’ll submit the rebate application on your behalf, so all you need to do is have your account number ready!

Interested in learning what other energy-saving changes TID can help you afford? Ask your service technician about a Smart thermostat, whole house fan, or upgraded HVAC system.

Refrigerant . . . gas . . . freon . . . whatever you want to call it, it’s the life blood of your air conditioner, and most people don’t give it much thought until that air conditioner suddenly doesn’t have as much as it ought. As we head into the 2024 cooling season, now is the time when homeowners may be made aware of their system’s refrigerant issues and told a lot of things about that- some true, some exaggerated, and some flat-out lies. What we here at Bailey’s Air Heroes want to do is make sure you have all the information necessary to make informed decisions and avoid being scammed.

Is My Refrigerant Banned?

There are many different types of refrigerants on the market, designed with different properties to suit particular applications (cars! refrigerators! residential homes! large-scale commercial operations!). A factor that’s been taken into consideration in these last few decades is the question of their impact on the environment, and that has led to national regulations put in place to discontinue the use of refrigerants now considered unfavorable.

So what does that mean for you and your A/C? It can depend. There are still some units (let’s call ’em vintage!) out there just chugging along, still using refrigerant that’s now no longer able to be manufactured in, nor imported into, the U.S.. And even so, this refrigerant (R-22), is still available for purchase, given that it must be collected and disposed of properly from junked equipment, and can therefore be recycled and cleaned for re-sale. This pool of available R-22 will dwindle over time, and it’s for each contractor to decide for themselves when it stops becoming sensible to continue to offer and carry (on space-constrained trucks) refrigerant that is simultaneously becoming more expensive (supply and demand, after all) and less often encountered in homes. But continued sale of recyled R-22, along with the existence of cheaper substitute alternative blends that have similar properties and will therefore work (not perfectly, but acceptably) in place of R-22, means that you’re never required to change out your equipment. And indeed, in the past, we’ve heard of more than a few contractors who would rather push words like “banned” or even “illegal” and gloss over the fine details of the options available for customers with outdated refrigerant.

That said, just beause you’re never required to change out your equipment, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Here are some considerations should you keep in mind if a refrigerant issue has led to a replacement recommendation:

  • A piece of equipment that uses outdated refrigerant is guaranteed to be of a certain age, and that means that most, if not all, of its other components are also at or exceeding their life expectancy, with decades of wear and tear.
  • In the case of refrigerant leaks, the discovery of one likely signals that more are currently microscopic and growing larger over time, or that other new leaks will continue to develop in the aging pipes and welds that have failed.
  • Ofentimes, equipment components overheat as they run with inadequate refrigerant, leading to premature failure even after a refrigerant leak has been identified and repaired.
  • “Leak sealant” substances advertised on the market may gum up- for lack of a better word- other components within the refrigeration circuit like the compressor and lead to its premature failure.
  • Parts required for non-leak-related refrigerant repairs (TXV, compressor, etc.) might be less stocked by distributors in their obsolete refrigerant versions and take longer to bring in to local supply houses.
  • Converting equipment to a refrigerant substitue as part of a leak repair can be costly because all the refrigerant has to be removed and replaced, and must also be well and clearly documented for future technicians or risk misdiagnosis and contamination by way of mixing refrigerants.
  • Older equipment guzzles energy enormously in comparison to even today’s required minimum-efficiency equipment.

All of these factors, combined with the question of which contractors will sell and carry the particular recycled or substitute you may need and how it will be priced based on market factors, means that a refrigerant repair may be at best a last-ditch effort to get through the season before biting the bullet on a new system, and at worst, throwing good money after bad.

But Will My Refrigerant Be Banned?

So R-22 has gone the way of the dodo- but what about its successor, R-410A? The sad truth is that the refrigerant chosen to take R-22’s place is already on the same path to becoming obsolete. In 2020, the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act was enacted into law; combined with the EPA’s new 2025 requirements, this means that next year, new equipment will no longer be made to work with R-410A refrigerant, either.

However, much like with R-22’s slow and gradual phase-out, R-410A refrigerant will continue to be available despite the planned dates for ceasing its manufacture and import. Even way down the line when the existing supply of recycled R-410A is dwindling, new drop-in substitues will be on the market to supplement demand. Furthermore, manufacturers’ and distributors’ remaining inventory of R-410A will be allowed to be sold for a period of time beyond 2025, which means that the hung-over salesman at an estimate on January 1st, 2025 is far more likely to give a quote for an R-410A system than equipment utilizing the new refrigerants. (It takes time, after all, to produce and ship out the new equipment, the old must be liquidated to make room for the new, and distributors will prioritize doing that so as to not be left with unsellable stock once sale of R-410A equipment is disallowed).

Hearing about these industry changes can be a little daunting, but the fact of the matter is that your refrigerant isn’t going to be banned, and that shouldn’t factor into your decisions. If your system is a good candidate for replacement now, there’s no need to hold off and wait for new non-R-410A equipment, and there’s conversely no need to rush to try to get a fine, working system replaced by this Christmas, either. As always, being proactive and planning ahead are key, regular maintenance with licensed professionals will help extend your system’s life and catch small problems before they become big ones, and equipment prices only ever seem to go up, not down.

February 17-19, 2023, Join us at the upcoming Modesto Home Show! Text “VIPMODESTO” to 855-881-SHOW(7469) to receive a free admission ticket!

Ultralow NOx furnaces, what are they and should I replace my furnace with one, or should I switch to an electric heat pump? Hi, I’m’ Mitch Bailey, and I am going to help you answer these questions.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the push to get rid of everything that uses fossil fuels in California. This is the push to electrification for the state. The goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate the pollution and carbon output from fossil fuel appliances and vehicles in the state. California’s lofty, however in my opinion misplaced goal, is to completely ban gas furnaces, water heaters and gas stoves by 2030, in addition to appliances they plan on banning gas cars sold in California by 2035.

However, you might not know that for many in California a change has already taken place. Depending on where you live in the state of California, you have no choice but to replace your furnace with an Ultralow NOx or ULN furnace. Let me explain what a ULN furnace is, the reasoning that brought us Ultralow NOx furnaces, the science behind the regulations, where this science is misleading, where it all goes wrong, and despite all this, the actual reason that I actually recommend that you not purchase a ULN furnace, and instead make the switch to a heat pump.

Prior to 2018 there was no such thing as an Ultralow NOx furnace, they didn’t exist. So, why do we need them and how did they come about. For this we have to go back to 1978 when the California South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCA) adopted rule 1111. Almost three decades later in 2005 the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJV) adopted their own rule 4905. Both of these rules established a mandate to reduce the quantity of nitrogen oxides emitted by gas furnaces, from 40 nano grams per joule to 14 nano grams per joule, a 65% reduction of NOx.

You see, nitrogen oxides or NOx is produced when we burn fossil fuels. Cars, furnaces, water heaters, and gas stoves all create NOx as a byproduct of combustion. This NOx that we put in the air combines with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) to become smog. In turn, the UV light from sunlight reacts with the smog to create ground level ozone. The higher the concentration of NOx, and VOC’s, combined with higher summer temperatures and extended daylight hours facilitate the creation of greater and greater concentrations of ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is a carcinogen, so the EPA set a maximum level of 70 parts per billion to eliminate the adverse health effects.

However, each year the level of ozone in areas served by SCA and SJV exceeds the 70 parts per billion. These areas in the Central valley and LA basin have a recurring weather phenomenon that develops on a regular basis. Topography plays an important role along with the moderate weather that California is blessed with. This weather phenomenon is called an inversion layer. In the summer months the Central Valley and the LA Basin, which are surrounded by mountains, develop an inversion layer with warmer air at higher altitudes and cooler air at ground level. This inversion layer holds in all the pollutants in the air like the lid on a pot. This does not change unless a low front moves through with winds to mix the upper layer with the lower layer and thus blowing out all the smog. When high pressure sits over California the inversion layer forms and holds this smog mixture at ground level and concentrates it, thus occasionally exceeding the 70 parts per billion several days a year. In the linked video I show demonstrate this for you. This demonstration is a good representation of an inversion layer that accurately simulates what occurs over the Valley and the LA Basin with cold air at ground level and warmer air aloft. Now, if a low-pressure system comes through, it will stir the air causing the cooler air below to mix with the warmer air aloft and the two layers will combine. This in turn clears out all the smog. California exceeds the 70 parts per billion set by the EPA only when inversion layers develop. The science is very sound on this. However, as I will explain at the end SCA and SJV are using this to mislead you and in my opinion lie to you, more on this later.

So, in 2015 both SCA and the SJV mandated that manufacturers build a furnace that reduced the current allowable levels of NOx by 65%, this is how the ULN furnace came about, because no such furnace currently existed. They gave manufacturers four years to build such a furnace. In the interim, heating and air contractors were allowed to continue installing standard furnaces and pay a mitigation fee for homes in SCA or SJV territories. However, these air districts put a hard date that completely banned standard furnaces, October 2019 for SCA, and April 2020 for SJV, after which they would no longer allow a standard furnace to be set and pay a mitigation fee, they required all furnaces that are replaced be ULN in these districts.

Subsequently, the manufacturers dutifully complied and designed ULN furnaces, or at least a few did, many brands instead of developing their own, bought the design from other manufacturers. In 2018 the first few pilot furnaces were being installed in homes and being tested. That’s when I began to hear stories from the contractors installing them. These contractors were saying that the new units were having multiple problems. About the same time as I was hearing these stories I attended training on the upcoming release of these new furnaces, and after that training I could easily see problems with them myself. At the trainings I learned that these ULN furnaces had a narrow band that the gas pressure had to be set to, while standard furnaces have a much wider band of pressure. What makes this bad is the fact that if the gas line going to the furnace is not sized adequately, problems will arise when the furnace is running and the water heater or gas stove is running at the same time. The gas pressure could drop as these other appliances come on and drop the gas pressure out of that narrow band or range it needs to be operated in. In addition, the design requires a burner chamber that is sealed with the flames from the burners not visible to the technician. This removes one the greatest indicator used to determine when a furnace might have a cracked heat exchanger. Not having this ability to visually monitor the flame, in my opinion, can be potentially dangerous for the customer. And finally, since this was first generation and not a tried-and-true technology, combined with all the stories I heard about them, I made the decision not set ULN furnaces. We advise our customers to install a heat pump and avoid ULN furnaces when it is time to replace their system.

Unfortunately, I am talking from experience about the problems with Ultra Low NOx. Even though we advise our customers to stay away from Ultralow NOx does not mean that all the customers took my advice. Being in business means that we would do what the customer desires, and in some cases, this meant installing a ULN furnace. Every ULN furnace we installed has had some problems. The biggest problem is how low we have to dial down the gas pressure to mitigate a harmonic sound that these furnaces would make when operating. The attached video has one of the ULN furnaces acting up and I having to adjust it to get rid of the sound, which is deafening and sounds like a smoke alarm going off. But that is not all, after adjusting the pressure to eliminate the sound we have been finding that the efficiency of these furnaces are no longer within specification. The efficiency drops from 80% down to around 66%. That means that the customer is now wasting 34 cents on every dollar. This loss in efficiency alone should keep you from setting an ultralow NOx furnace, and switch to a heat pump.  

Speaking of efficiency, furnaces come in several efficiencies, 80% being standard and 90+ the high efficiency version with the higher efficiencies between 92% and as much as 98% depending on the model and brand. However, the majority of standard and ULN furnaces that are installed are 80%, I would estimate better than three quarters of the units today are 80 percenters. This percentage, 80 or 90+, is based on the AFUE rating or annual fuel utilization efficiency. Basically, it is just as it is stated, with an 80% furnace every dollar you spend on heat 80 cents of that dollar is delivered into the home while the other 20 cents of heat is exhausted out through the flue. While a 95% furnace only wastes 5 cents through the flue. Because some furnaces are only a couple of percentages off from 100 percent you might think that they can be very economical to run. However, a heat pump is actually cheaper to run at today’s prices for natural gas compared to a heat pump at today’s electric rates.

Before I go any further allow me to explain what a heat pump is and how it works. Simply stated, a heat pump is your air conditioner working in reverse. Air conditioners absorb heat from the air inside of the home and rejects that heat outside. We call this the refrigeration cycle. The refrigeration cycle uses a refrigerant to absorb the heat from the air inside the home as it passes through the indoor coil, the refrigerant evaporates in this coil and during this evaporation it absorbs heat. The vapor refrigerant is then pumped to the outside coil where it is condensed back down into a liquid, as the refrigerant changes from a gas to a liquid in the outside coil it rejects the heat that was absorbed from the air inside home into the outside air. The prime difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump is that a heat pump has a reversing valve. The reversing valve changes the direction that the refrigerant flows so that heat is absorbed from the outside air as it evaporates inside the outside coil and then is pumped back to the inside coil where the refrigerant condenses back into a liquid and rejects the heat it just absorbed from the outside air into the air inside the home. There are a few other parts thrown in to make this process as efficient as possible.

Furnaces use AFUE, while Heat pumps use HSPF or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor to rate their efficiency. However, a better matrix that we can compare operating costs between a furnace and heat pump is the COP or Coefficient of Performance. The COP is the amount of BTU’s that a heat pump will produce divided by the power consumed or wattage. Since we know how many BTU’s to Watts we can determine how much it costs to produce a million BTU’s at a given COP. As for natural gas, it is sold by the therm, whereas a therm is equal to 1050 BTU’s we can use this to calculate the cost for a furnace to produce a million BTU’s and compare that to the heat pump. A few years back I created a spread sheet and chart in order to compare the cost to produce a million BTU’s using LPG, natural gas, and a heat pump, and it shows that it costs less to produce a million BTU’s with a heat pump than a 95% gas furnace. In addition, several utilities like SMUD, MID and TID reduce their electric rates in the winter which equates to even more savings if these utilities provide electricity to your home.

I want to make it clear; we decided not to use ULN furnaces and switch to heat pumps not only because we were trying to avoid potential problems that ULN furnaces may have, but we also made this decision because it makes economic sense to use a heat pump as they are cheaper to run, in addition heat pumps use tried and true technology.

Earlier I had said we were being misled. I saw this happening back in 2015, when the air quality districts enacted their rules and started charging a mitigation fee, I tried in vain back then to get the supply houses, other contractors, and manufacturers to join forces to put together a war chest and hire attorneys to fight this mandate of ULN furnaces and the interim mitigation fee. Remember how I said that these air pollution districts were misleading you and lying to you? Well they are, and here is where they have misled you. Back in 2015, when all this began for me, I took a look at the data they were using to justify these mandates, and I saw a glaring lie that they used to justify these changes. You can see this data yourself by going to this link,%20CA,%20USA See this chart, look closely and you will see that we do exceed the 70 parts per billion of ground level ozone during the year. Furthermore, these charts also show when this actually occurs. Notice the time of year that the levels are exceeded? Yep, they are all in the summer months, none in the winter months. I don’t know about you, but I don’t run my furnace in July. This was confirmed by an individual high up that worked for SJV, he told me that they considered furnaces “low hanging fruit”, that they could mandate something, and the manufacturers would just do it. They did this even though they knew that it would have no effect at all on the actual days that we exceeded the 70 parts per billion. Those days that it does exceed the 70 parts per billion is actually from vehicle emissions, long summer days, high summer temperatures and the inversion layer that plagues us during the summer.

What is even worse is the amount of money that has been wasted on these regulations from the millions in mitigation fees to the millions the manufacturers spent producing an expensive and finicky furnace that is only made for certain parts of California. When you consider that all this was completely unnecessary and would have no effect at all on the goals they were trying to meet. Then you can see where regulators with the stroke of a pen can wield unbridled power to bully the private sector and waste millions in precious resources and dollars. Even worse, because I am not the only contractor that chose not to install ULN furnaces, many of the suppliers now find themselves in a predicament because of their non-action to nip this in the bud before it became the problem as it now exists. Now many of the suppliers and manufactures have inventory of thousands of ULN furnaces they are having trouble getting rid of. Again, this costs the industry and the public resources and money needlessly.

Finally, there was nothing wrong with standard furnaces and the central valley and LA basin has paid the price. The bureaucracy and elected officials that run the state have already decided not to keep fossil fuel appliances and switch everything over to electric, heck they are even banning gas cars which is the most boneheaded move anyone could make. Think about it, banning something before the infrastructure is in place, this could literally be the definition of stupidity. And now for the 900-pound gorilla in the room, another thing that is not being considered is that solar and wind are too unreliable to provide consistent power that is needed for our 39 million residents. So, we must build more gas fired power plants to provide all the electricity we need when the sun does not shine, or the wind does not blow. Last year the Governor of California had to sign an emergency order authorizing gas power plants to keep California from having rolling blackouts as detailed in these articles. Think about it this way, you are replacing your gas appliance or vehicle with an electric appliance or vehicle to get rid of fossil fuels, yet I will now be getting my electricity generated from a gas powerplant, so you are actually achieving nothing by trading my fossil fuel vehicle or appliance to get electricity generated by a gas powerplant, this is yet another definition of stupidity.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I still feel the heat pump is the best choice. However, I think you should also consider dual fuel. In some cases I recommend that you keep your existing furnace and replace only the coil and the outdoor unit with a heat pump. This is the best of both worlds. You use the heat pump most of the time to heat the home, and on the coldest nights you can use the furnace as backup. This minimizes the use of gas to heat your home, satisfying the reduction in NOx and carbon pollution, in addition to costing less to run. The only drawback to this is that they are not a matched system that will get you energy rebates or tax credits, as this combination will only be standard efficiency and not high efficiency. However, if the existing furnace is old, it would be better to switch out the complete system from natural gas to heat pump. In short, heat pumps have been around for decades and are quite efficient. They are definitely a better choice over Ultralow NOx furnaces.

I hope you found this informative, and you learned enough to make a proper decision on replacing your system with a heat pump that will help make you comfortable while saving you money.

A magic bullet is a quick and simple solution to a difficult problem. Sorry to say, when it comes to heating and air, hardly ever are there any magic bullets. This poses a problem that I see over and over again, customers believe that changing out their system alone will solve all their problems. What is even worse, many technicians believe the same thing and perpetuate this belief with customers, sometimes it’s just an ill-informed technician lacking an understanding of how the house, duct work and envelope act as a system and how they all work together, and then there are the techs that knows that a customer thinks replacing their system will fix everything and uses this belief to help them get a sale, whether or not it solves the customers problems. Fortunately, our techs are trained to not use this as a sales tactic, but I cannot speak for other companies.
Here is a perfect example of the aforementioned, one of our techs found a cracked heat exchanger on a rooftop package unit and encouraged the customer to replace the system instead of repairing due to the age of the unit. The customer agreed and the system was removed, and a new system installed. However, only a few days later the customer calls to say there was a problem. The tech went out to find the customer was upset because their living room was still cold and not heating the same as other rooms in the house. Apparently, the customer always had a problem heating and cooling the living room and believed that changing out the system would solve the problem in the living room, he thought a new system would be the proverbial magic bullet.
Unfortunately, the customer did not tell the tech that there was a problem with the heating and cooling of the living room before it was decided to replace the system. Upon further inspection the tech found the ducts going to the living room appear to be too small, more on this later, and even worse the ducts to this room are not accessible because they dive into a cathedral ceiling that has no access or attic space, making replacement or repairs impossible for these ducts. The solution is to run a new supply duct to the living room and install it high on the knee wall in the attic to the living room. Technically it was the customers problem because he did not tell the tech there was a problem with the living room. However, it is the tech’s problem as he should have asked the question when going over their options and selling him a new system, is there any rooms you are having a problem heating and cooling? The customer was adamant about staying within a budget and the tech was happy to oblige by just replacing the system without a load calculation and a test in. Both the load calc and test in would have shown there was a problem with the airflow to the living room. Plus, if the tech had asked the question before working up a price to replace the system, this could have been addressed and become an included option which would have been taken care of during the change out. In this instance the tech failed to ask and the customer thought that replacing the system would fix everything.
Moreover, the ducts should be addressed each and every time when considering replacing a system, in addition to having a load calculation done. Everyone assumes that the unit was sized appropriately for the home and the ducts were also sized correctly for the rooms when they built the house or added central heating and air to it. In truth, I have found that ten percent or less of the systems I have seen had a true load calculation to determine the proper size unit for the home and then even fewer have properly sized ducts from the load calculation, they all used rules of thumb based on square footage.
So please, customers and technicians don’t assume replacing a system will be a magic bullet that will fix everything. In that same light, it takes true measurements to determine where best to apply your money that will reap energy savings and better comfort.