Houston homeowners are put in a difficult situation when it comes to home heating. They know they need to keep their homes warm during the quick-hitting winter months, but spending several thousands of dollars on a quality heating unit, and several hundred more on periodic repair and maintenance seems like a waste on a home installation that you're only going to use for a small period of time. People in North Dakota, Minnesota, and the like would probably laugh at our intolerance to the cold, but once you've become acclimated to unbearable heat and humidity, it doesn't take much to put a chill in your bones. That said, there may be wise alternatives to the common Houston gas furnace and forced-air heating systems, particularly if you have the opportunity to build a system from scratch.
Houston Heating System Repairs and Maintenance
As much as various heating and cooling systems (and energy-efficiency in general) grab headlines, the truth is that homeowners in Space City aren't part of research and development for the US Department of Energy. Most homeowners have no motivation to replace a heating system that is still in good working order. The problem is if your gas furnace breaks down in the middle of winter, you can't really wait to survey alternatives and replacements. So you spend several hundred dollars to have the unit repaired and it remains one season closer to death, anyway. Have someone assess the condition of your unit during the summer, however, and you may realize it's time to look into cost-effective alternatives now.
Houston Gas Furnaces and Heating Alternatives
Assuming you at least have preexisting ductwork that you don't want to pay to replace, the real question becomes how you heat and cool the air that travels through your ducts. Ductless systems may be a revolution in waiting, but they're also best for new home building. In Houston, gas furnaces are common because they're relatively cheap, but older models are notoriously inefficient and, possibly, dangerous. While you'll certainly see a difference in your monthly bills from a new gas furnace in Houston, even newer models can't match the energy efficiency of true alternatives.
The most viable alternative is a heat pump. Heat pumps work by exchanging warm and cold air from your home's interior and the outside air. Even during the winter, there are still warm air particles to pull in and heat your home. Because heat pumps simply move air around, no original heat needs to be generated, making these units extremely efficient. In extreme temperatures where warm air particles are sparse, a heat pump may not be able to keep up, but in Houston these types of temperatures are essentially unheard of.
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The real advantage of heat pumps, however, is that the process is reversible. Thus, your heat pump can also work as a "cooling pump." The same process applies as do the qualifications about extremely hot summer temperatures. This may not be a huge concern, though, if you already have an air conditioning unit. You can still use the energy-efficient cooling properties of your heat pump during the spring, fall, and during milder summer days. When the full heat of a Houston summer hits, you can use your regular air conditioning unit to keep your home comfortable. You'll also be saving mileage on an older A/C unit.
Geothermal Heat Pumps and the Cost of Houston Heating Systems
Taking the basic principle of a heat pump to the next level is geothermal technology. Instead of exchanging heat, a geothermal heat pump exchanges heat with subterranean space where the temperature remains constant and comfortable, similar to a warm cave. In fact, with one of these systems, you can pretty much forget about heating and cooling utility costs, although the initial cost of installation will be a hefty one. Essentially, every heating and cooling solution involves balancing the initial cost of investment with long-term benefits. If you know you're going to be staying in your home indefinitely, it may be financially sensible to take out a loan to pay for a heat pump or geothermal technology, and pay off the loan with money that would otherwise be paid out to the utility company.