When we moved to our little piece of paradise we knew we wanted to live a certain kind of life. Part of that life was growing our own food. We also wanted to live as eco friendly a life as we can. I am not saying we are perfect but we are doing the best we can and each year we try to make improvements to better our impacts. This year we will be using reusable containers for freezing fruits and vegetables instead of zip bags. The second big change we did this year was truly big – we chose to install an Air Source Heat Pump.
Why Make the Change?
I will be the first to admit that when the hubby told me he was researching something called air source heat pumps I was all, whaaaaa? Then he tried to explain it to me. On the third explanation I do believe I finally started to understand. Right now we heat with mostly wood and use a propane forced hot air system for back up. We wanted to move to a system that burned fewer fossil fuels. Our electric company, Missoula Electric Co-op gets a lot of its electricity from renewables (mostly hydro) so even though we will be moving our heat – and to the great joy of my husband, air conditioning – to electric, we will not have need of the propane for heat and we won’t be putting all of that wood smoke into the air.
Our woodstove was one that was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible but the fact remains that we were putting smoke in the air. We will still keep the woodstove as a backup for if the power goes out but it won’t be our main source of heat any longer. We also still use propane for our hot water and the dryer. When those appliances have to be replaced we will switch them to electric since the electricity from our company is not coal derived (for the most part) using it is better for the environment than propane. The only propane appliance that will remain will be my stove; and only the burners. The oven is electric as I have a dual fuel range.
What is an Air Source Heat Pump?
This was one of my questions. Actually the hubby was looking at two different types of systems; the air source and the ground source heat pump. They both work in similar ways, it just depends on how they get the “source.” He ended up choosing the air source for cost reasons. Obviously when you have to dig a big hole before you even start it’s going to cost more than when you don’t.
To tell you how the system works I’m just going to give you the very basics. I am no expert and I am not going to pretend to be. To make heat:
- Air is pulled into the unit from the outside
- It then goes into a heat exchanger
- The heat is then concentrated, turned to vapor and compressed
- The vapor goes into a second heat compressor which provides the heat to the house.
For a more detailed explanation and why it works even in cold weather see: Energy Sage
If you want to learn more you can find an installer in your area or check out this site from the Department of Energy. If you are in the Missoula area I strongly recommend the very capable and knowledgeable people at Garden City Plumbing and Heating. Devan and his installers were fast and efficient.
5 Reasons Install an Air Source Heat Pump
1. – To replace a heating/air conditioning system that uses an environmentally unfriendly source like propane, natural gas or oil.
2. – An air source heat pump uses far less electricity than an electric based heating/air conditioning system.
3. – Air source heat pumps are quieter than other forms of heating/air conditioning systems – particularly if you are using window based air conditioners.
4. – An air source heat pump is a good source of air filtration and dehumidification which can make living conditions more comfortable for people suffering with allergies.
5. – You can install an air source heat pump system in a house with or without ducts so it wouldn’t necessarily require a major renovation
We Are Happy with Our Air Source Heat Pump
The installation of the air source heat pump was an easy, three day process. Truth be told it was two and a half days. The installers came the first day and took out our old forced hot air system. When we had that put in when we were building the yurt we put in ducting for air conditioning even though we didn’t put in a cooling system. I don’t like air conditioning – I find it very abrasive on my skin and I happen to like the heat. The hubby, on the other hand wilts. So now he will be happy when heat of the summer really settles in.
The second day the men put the new equipment in the basement and set the heat pump on a pad next to the yurt. The third day had an electrician coming out to wire everything.
Then the installers showed the hubby how to use the spiffy, wireless thermostat. It’s got a lot of cool features including the ability to “talk” to Garden City so that if there are updates or any issues the company can check the system remotely. That is great as we are so rural and a service call means over an hour of driving one way.
Further Benefits to the Air Source Heat Pump
Another benefit to this system will show when fire season rears it’s ugly head. Last year was not too bad but the year before when we had the Sunrise Fire burning across the river the smoke levels were horrific. We couldn’t open the windows in the yurt and it was exceptionally stuffy when the temps were hitting the high 90ies. Now that we have this new system we won’t have to worry about closed windows. The house will be cool and smokeless.
I suspect I will be wearing my flannel shirts year round now but I further suspect the cats and the bunny will be much happier with a cooler house. While I might be happy when the temps hit 100° I am probably the only one!
I can attest that this new system is indeed much quieter than our forced hot air system. In fact I hardly know when it’s running. We have tested the heat but this being a typical Montana spring we have not tested the air conditioning. If the season runs true to form we won’t be testing that system until mid-July.
We are very happy we made this investment into a better world. It suits the type of life we want to live here on our little farm. Next we hope to add a solar system so that is what we are saving for next.
For installation information in the Missoula, Montana, and its environs: Garden City Plumbing
For further information on Air Source and Ground Source Heat Pumps: Energy Sage