Investing in a heat pump is an important decision you should not make lightly. Whether you’re updating an old, inefficient HVAC system, or you’re building a home in New Orleans that’s being fitted with its very first heating and cooling system, it’s important to prepare your home before you make a purchase. By proceeding methodically you’ll wind up with a system you’ll enjoy for years. You may even be able to save some money on your purchase. Take these steps to get your Louisiana home ready for a heat pump.
Make energy-efficient improvements
These might include ensuring proper insulation, installing Energy Star-qualified windows and sealing gaps and cracks in the home’s outer envelope. These improvements are very important, because they could allow you to purchase a smaller unit.
Have a load calculation performed
With your efficiency improvements completed, have your contractor do a load calculation. This should not be a rule-of-thumb calculation, but instead one based on the industry-standard Manual J. This method factors in considerations such as square footage, home orientation, window size and efficiency, air infiltration, occupancy and climate.
Size the system properly
A load calculation allows you to size your new heat pump accurately. When it comes to ideal efficiency and home comfort, bigger is not better. In fact, an oversized heat pump starts and stops more frequently, making it less efficient and putting undue stress on system components. The result is higher humidity, spiked energy bills and a heat pump that is likely to fail prematurely.
On the other hand, an undersized heat pump can’t keep up with demand on the hottest, most humid Louisiana days, leaving you feeling uncomfortable despite a constantly running heat pump. The trick is to use an accurate load calculation to determine the ideal heat pump size for year-round comfort.
Install ductwork correctly
It may be necessary to tear out sections of poorly designed ductwork and replace them with shorter, properly sized runs. If you’re building a home, make sure your contractor keeps runs as short and straight as possible. Your contractor should never use an empty space in a wall in place of ductwork. If at all possible, have your contractor avoid running ductwork in any uninsulated space. If your home is older, insulate the ductwork in the uninsulated spaces.
Part of expert ductwork installation involves having return registers in every room. This keeps your home at a comfortable, even temperature and prevents pressure imbalances. Make sure the return registers are sized right so they don’t detract from the system’s efficiency.
Find a suitable location for your outside unit
Your new heat pump will have an outside unit. The location you choose for that unit will seriously affect your system’s efficiency. Look for a spot on the north or east side of your home. These sides are usually shaded by the house during the hottest parts of the day. If there’s no suitable location on these sides of your home, try to find an area on the south or west side that’s shaded in the late afternoon, when the heat pump works its hardest in the cooling season.
When you think you have a suitable spot, make sure it will be easy to keep foliage trimmed back. This ensures proper airflow and encourages the highest performance possible.
With all these issues taken care of, you can have your trusted and qualified professional do the HVAC installation.
Run an air leakage test
With the new heat pump in place, have your contractor run an air-leakage test. This ensures that less than 10 percent of the system’s airflow is escaping through gaps and cracks in the ductwork. The ideal leakage rate of 5 percent or less is possible with careful workmanship.
Clearly, there’s much to be done before you purchase and install your new heat pump. For more information, contact Bryans United Air Conditioning. We have served New Orleans and the surrounding area for more than 30 years.
Written by Zach Mouton