Ben Scott of Ashland, Oregon swapped the furnace and air conditioner in his 1963 split-level home to a high efficiency variable speed heat pump. Since making the switch, he’s noticed that his home is more comfortable and has better air quality throughout.
Starting with weatherization
When Ben bought his home in the early 2000s, it had a gas furnace and an air conditioner which heated and cooled the home via ductwork that ran throughout the house.
The furnace and air conditioner still had a few years of life in them, but the ducts were leaky and inefficient and the home wasn’t well insulated. This meant that there were hot and cold spots throughout the house, the air quality wasn’t great, and wasted energy was driving up his energy bills.
In 2005, as part of a broader remodel that added a finished downstairs space, Ben re-insulated the home, upgraded his windows, and got the ducts properly sealed. The hot and cold spots improved, as did the air quality and the amount of money he was spending on energy bills.
"Replacing insulation, windows, and doing some air sealing go a long way – especially if you have an older home.”
Ben’s advice: “Try to know something about the envelope of the house. I just don’t think replacing expensive equipment is the first thing to do. Replacing insulation, windows, and doing some air sealing go a long way – especially if you have an older home.”
Furnace reaches end of life
In 2021, the furnace had reached its end of life. Ben was motivated to reduce the pollution emitted by his home, which meant switching the natural gas furnace to a clean, electric heat pump.
To start, he had an electrician come out and look over his panel and wiring, which needed some work to power the new heat pump.
Working with an HVAC contractor, Ben chose a variable speed ducted heat pump with an electric coil as a backup heat source. The electric coil was designed to kick on when the weather outside dropped below 30 degrees, which happens every now and then in Ashland.
Additionally, he added a mini-split heat pump to heat and cool the renovated downstairs space. This two zone system gave him more control over the temperatures throughout the home, which allowed him to save energy when the downstairs space wasn’t being used.
Comfort, quiet, and price stability
Ben is happy with how the heat pump heats, cools, and filters the air in his home. “The home is more comfortable,” he says, as the heat pump “provides a very consistent level of heat” compared to his old furnace which was either on or off, resulting in it getting too cold or too hot.
He does warn that there was a period of adjustment. “We re-used our Nest thermostat and there were some funny, quirky things we didn’t know about.” Ben had to futz with some settings in order to get the backup heat to only kick in when he wanted it to. Once he got everything programmed properly, it worked great.
Ben is also impressed by how quiet the heat pumps are, something he had heard negative reviews about. “These compressors are nice and quiet, and one of them is right outside our second bedroom.”
In the first year of operating the heat pump, his energy bills are about the same as they were before, but he doesn’t see that as a negative. “Our local gas utility had an 18% increase in prices last fall and they just said they want another 8%. So real soon the argument that gas is cheap is going away.” Over the long term, Ben expects he’ll save money having made the switch.
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