What is a ductless heat pump?

A ductless heat pump is an HVAC system that can both heat and cool a space. An outdoor unit is connected to indoor units, which are controlled with a remote control. The units transfer heat between the outside and the inside using a vapor compression refrigerant cycle. When the heating component is on, outside heat is collected and distributed inside. When the cooling component is on, the opposite action occurs. Ductless heat pumps do not require ductwork, so they work well in ADUs, extra living spaces, or homes that have expensive baseboard heating. Learn more about how ductless heat pumps work.

How is a ducted heat pump different from a ductless heat pump?

Both types of systems operate on a similar concept. Instead of creating heat like a traditional furnace, heat pumps simply transfer heat, which makes them incredibly efficient. A standard heat pump transfers heat through a home’s ductwork, while a ductless heat pump doesn’t need ductwork – it uses a series of air handles to transfer heat.

What is a mini-split?

mini-split is the same as a ductless heat pump! Also known as ductless mini-split heat pumps and zoned HVAC, these systems all do the same thing, no matter the name. They transfer heat to warm or cool a space without needing ductwork.  

How should I maintain my home’s HVAC system?

Before each season, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your home will be adequately comfortable. No matter if you use a ductless or ducted heat pump or a furnace and air conditioner,  you’ll first want to make sure that you’re scheduling seasonal tune-ups. An HVAC pro will test your system to keep it running at peak condition. After that, there are a few easy steps any homeowner can take. If you’re unsure of anything, just ask us when we come to perform a tune-up! We’re always happy to give you advice and suggestions.

  • Replace air filters
  • Clean and clear vents
  • Clean and clear the outdoor unit
  • Reprogram the thermostat

What should I do if I’m worried about air quality from wildfires?

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is increasingly becoming wildfire season. How can you ensure that your indoor air is clean and safe to breathe?  

Step 1: While every house is different, a good filter will remove smoke. Replacing your air filter is always important for clean air and you might want to replace it more frequently when you’re getting hit with poor air quality.  

Step 2: If your area has received ash, you’ll also want to get your system serviced to make sure the outdoor coil is clean.  

Step 3: Some homes have fresh air intakes that pump outside air inside. In these cases, homeowners may want to disable the mechanical damper so it stays closed when the fan turns on. This process isn’t always intuitive so you should contact an HVAC professional to help you out.  

Step 4: If you want to go an extra step, the Reme Halo air purifier is a great way to clean the air in your home.

What are some signs that my furnace needs to be replaced?

The average furnace lasts for 15-20 years so if your furnace is older than that, then it’s probably not worth repairing. We recommend replacement if the system has passed three-quarters of its expected lifespan and/or if the repairs will cost more than a third of the replacement cost. Plus, if it’s older than 10 years old, you may want to consider an early replacement if you’re noticing any of the following signs:

  • Unusually high utility bills
  • Uneven or inconsistent heating
  • Unusually loud sounds, like buzzing, rattling, or humming
  • Excessive dirt and debris on surfaces
  • Frequent repairs
  • Rapid on/off cycles

What are some signs that my air conditioner needs to be replaced?

The average air conditioner will last around 15 years. However, if your system is older than 10 years but requires expensive or frequent repairs, then replacing it may be more cost-effective. There are other warning signs that your air conditioner might be on its last leg: strange sounds, high bills, system needs to be repaired often, and home is uncomfortable.

How much does it cost to replace a furnace?

The price of a furnace is dependent on multiple factors. The type of furnace purchased is the primary factor. For example, homeowners nationally pay more for gas furnaces and less for electric models. Ductless mini-split heat pumps may be a costlier upfront option – although they both heat and cool! – but price varies depending on the number of indoor units required.   
Other factors that play into the total price include the size of the home, the number of levels, window orientation, the unit’s efficiency rating, the complexity of the installation, and where the furnace is located.  

When should HVAC ductwork be replaced?

If your home has ductwork, you should know that it’s exposed to harsh conditions. The typical expansion and contraction that happens in a heating and cooling system might pull apart the seams of the ductwork, which creates leaks. Condensation can create rust. Poorly installed ductwork can be subject to buckling or leaks. So how do you know if there’s a problem or if you need to replace your ductwork?  

If you’re experiencing issues in your home like high energy bills, reduced comfort, noisy operation, or bad odors, you should call in a pro to assess your ducts. Ductwork has a lifespan but it doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced after 10 or 15 years. Problems can often be remedied by sealing, insulating, and plugging leaks. Be aware that installing a brand new system might require new ductwork as well, though.

What home heating and cooling system should I buy?

That depends! There are many variables to consider. The first is if you want to stick with the type of HVAC currently installed or if you want to try something new. Do you have a central air conditioner and a furnace that rely on ductwork? Do you have a ducted heat pump and forced air furnace combination?  

The second consideration consists of any issues or concerns you have with your home’s heating and cooling. Do you have high energy bills? Are there certain rooms or areas that are too hot or too cold? Do you have an ADU or outbuilding that needs to be heated or cooled?   

In general, we tend to recommend ductless heat pumps for homes that do not have ductwork. Installing ductwork is an expensive and time-intensive process, and in most cases, it’s hard to justify the expense when ductless heat pumps are so efficient and affordable. We love ductless heat pumps for home additions, basement apartments, and ADUs, as well as for homes that rely on expensive electric heating.

Where are HVAC filters located?

Have you ever gone to replace your HVAC filter … but couldn’t find it? All HVAC systems should have an air filter, but they’re not always located in the same spots. They can be tricky to find, especially with a new system. Generally, the filter will be in the blower compartment or in the return air duct. Depending on your type of HVAC unit, you may find an air filter in one of the following spots:   

  • Behind the return grills if there’s a return in each room 
  • Behind the return air grill on a wall 
  • Fitted into a slot below the unit (if you have a vertical air handler with the return air duct below the air handler) 
  • Fitted into a slot above the unit (if you have a vertical air handler with the return duct on top of the air handler) 
  • Fitted into a slot on the intake side of the unit (if you have a horizontal unit with the return duct on the side of the air handler) 

Can HVAC systems filter COVID-19?

HVAC filters can effectively remove pollen, dust, dirt, mold, certain particles, and bacteria. They can help reduce airborne contaminants like viruses, but a typical HVAC system can’t adequately protect inhabitants from COVID-19. To remove viruses from the air, a filter or cleaner needs to catch tiny particles in the range of 0.1-1 um. Products like the REME HALO® in-duct air purifier have been shown to kill up to 99% of viruses, bacteria, and mold, as well as reduce 99% of sneeze germs before they spread. 

Are HVAC systems energy efficient?

Yes! Today’s HVAC systems are incredibly efficient. Energy efficient units are usually more expensive up front, but the costs are offset over time through lower utility bills. Efficiency is measured by Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), which rates how efficiently a furnace uses fuel. higher rating means that less fuel is needed to heat a home, so the system is more efficient. Heat pump efficiency is measured by Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). The higher the HSPF rating, the less electricity is required for the unit to operate. An experienced HVAC technician will help you balance your comfort needsyour initial purchase budget, and your ongoing utility budget.

What should you do if you lose power?

Widespread outages occur in the Portland, Oregon area for a variety of reasons. Heat waves can cause power grid overloads, which lead to widespread outages. Ice storms and high winds can down power lines, too. To help your system run well and start properly after a power outage: 

  1. Cut the power to your air conditioning unit directly at the circuit breaker to avoid a jolt when the power resumes. (Your circuit breaker is most likely located in your garage, storage area, or basement). 
  2. When power is restored, turn the breaker for your unit back to the “on” position, which will reset the system. (Much like restarting a computer, be patient and give your breaker time to properly reset — this could take as much as 20 – 30 minutes).  
  3. After the breaker has reset, turn your system back on (or lower the thermostat to trigger the unit to run). 

How can you conserve energy and keep your home cool during a heat wave?

  • Make sure your air conditioning unit is cleared of debris. 
  • Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature earlier in the day. 
  • Avoid using the oven and other appliances. 
  • Use fans to circulate air through your house.
  • Don’t leave lights on that you don’t need. 
  • Close your blinds and curtains. 
  • Make sure your filter is clean. 
  • Cool your house early, while the system can keep up. 

Remember: Most HVAC systems are designed to 95 degrees ambient temperature, so if it’s 100 outside and your house can’t maintain 72 degrees don’t panic! Your system is doing the best it can. 

What is a SEER rating?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and it rates the efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. Read more: What is a SEER Rating?

How can I extend the life of my HVAC system?

Routine maintenance is a great way to make sure your system lasts as long as possible. Also, make sure to replace your air filters and keep the vents clean! Read more: How to Extend the Life of Your HVAC System