HVAC and Heat Pumps

What the Heck is HVAC? HVAC stands for heating, ventilating and air conditioning, and it’s all about the use of technology to provide a satisfactory indoor climate. This includes a comfortable air temperature along with healthy air quality.

HVAC and You

The ‘heating’ part we all understand as most of us – at least up here in Canada – need some kind of heater to keep us warm. Most often that is a forced-air furnace, typically one that burns natural gas or oil, although more and more electrically-fired furnaces are popping up. There are even wood-burning furnaces, some of which include an electric heating element in case the wood supply doesn’t last.

Ventilation is very important, too, as it helps control the temperature in our homes and offices. But it is also critical in replenishing the oxygen we breathe, removing excess moisture and controlling odours and bacteria in that air.

Though you may laugh at the thought of air conditioning in Canada, each year more and more people want it in their homes. Of course, almost all of our business and commercial buildings have been air conditioned for decades now. And, with the increasing temperatures that climate change is bringing, air conditioning will be much more common in the very near future.

Things Just Get Better and Better

Technology is amazing and we all benefit from the vast improvements it has brought when it comes to HVAC. Today’s furnaces use far less fuel than before and they are more compact and quieter, too. Automated thermostats lower temperatures at night for us, warming our homes up in the morning before we get out of bed. And many new homes now have carbon monoxide detectors, a life-saving and inexpensive technology that just wasn’t available in the past.

One of the reasons for the increase in popularity of air conditioning is the heat pump. First popularized as an efficient way to control year-round comfort in American and Japanese homes in the 1950s, heat pumps have benefited greatly from new technology.

Why You Should Consider a Heat Pump

In the early days of the heat pump, they were large, expensive and typically used buried pipes to extract heat from the ground (in winter) or to transfer heat to the ground (in summer). 21st century heat pumps are smaller and cheaper than ever before and therefore are a real alternative to other heating systems. The big advantage is that they provide heat in winter and cool air (air conditioning) in summer. And many now accomplish both of those functions by exchanging thermal energy (heat) from the outside air, meaning no more expensive, buried pipes. And, yes…they work in winter! You can feel the difference between +5 degrees and -10 degrees, and that is because air at -5 degrees has more thermal energy in it. Modern heat pumps can actually extract that heat and use it to heat your home!

All the brand names of furnaces you have known for years now make heat pumps, including Trane, Lennox, Carrier, LG, Rheem and so on. For more information on how a heat pump can benefit your new home or fit in with upcoming renovations, contact a good HVAC contractor. One such business in the Vancouver area is Pioneer Plumbing & Heating.

HVAC Maintenance

Just as in days of old, furnaces and heat pumps need maintenance and – occasionally – repair. Avoiding high repair costs as well as inconvenience is the goal of scheduled maintenance and something you should talk about with a representative from Pioneer Plumbing & Heating.

In fact, when it comes to maintenance and repair of any kind of heating system, as well as sales, installations and advice, the friendly professionals at K.C.’s can help anyone in the Metro Vancouver area.

Pioneer Plumbing & Heating Inc
626 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5T 3K4
(604) 872-4946

Forced Air Furnace Facts

The forced air furnace is the most common appliance used to heat American homes. There are also oil and propane furnaces but gas is the most widely used. Furnaces work by burning fuel which is forced through a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is designed with curved metal tubing which radiates heat as hot gases pass around the heat exchanger. These toxic gases are vented outdoors and sealed to prevent accidental poisoning.

In a forced air furnace, warm air is circulated through vents in your home. As the air passes over the heat exchanger it warms up and circulates through the house. The heat exchanger is sealed to keep the warm air separate from the toxic gases which are a by product of combustion.

Furnace Efficiency

Efficiency is measured by the AFUE rating, or annual fuel efficiency rating. This is the percentage of energy returned to your home as warm air.

Standard Furnaces have an AFUE rating of 80-85% Your typical standard furnace has one heat exchanger. This average rating of means that 15% – 20% of your energy is lost.

High-Efficiency Furnaces use a secondary heat exchanger to extract even more heat and can have ratings as high as 96% AFUE, which means an energy loss of only 4%. High-efficiency furnaces are now the preferred choice for furnace replacement and new construction.

Furnace prices these days are higher than before, but the energy savings makes up for it if the unit is fitted properly to the home and usage.

Look at Your Own Furnace

Older School Furnaces do not have blower fans and have very low efficiencies, as little as 30%. If your home has one of these ancient relics you might want to think about upgrading. The savings will be well worth the investment.

How A Furnace Can Turn Deadly

In furnace related deaths it is usually due to a cracked heat exchanger. Cracks occur over time as the burners turn on and off to regulate heat. Expansion and contraction fatigues the metal and causes cracks. A cracked heat exchanger is a serious issue, because even a small crack can release carbon monoxide gas, which is a silent odorless killer. For all of us, home safety is a major concern and should be taken seriously.


If you don’t know how to maintain your own furnace or air conditioning unit hire a professional to inspect, lubricate parts, check for damage, and tune it up. Another important test is for carbon monoxide leaks and safety of operation. Furnace tune-ups usually cost $50-100, but they can reduce your heating costs and guard against exposure to carbon monoxide.

Furnace Filters

Change or clean your filters on a regular basis. A dirty filter slows airflow and reduces efficiency which can result in higher heating costs, and could even damage the motor.

There are three types of filters:

1. Fiberglass filters are the cheapest, but the least efficient. If you have allergies consider spending a little more money on your furnace filters. They only block the largest particles allowing pollen and other particles like mold to pass through.

2. Washable electrostatic filters attract dirt and other matter with an electric charge. They only filter out about 15% – 20% and can be a chore to clean.

3. The pleated filter design is the best with more surface area and denser material. They last three times longer than cheap furnace filters and trap much more air borne allergens and dust.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

A carbon monoxide alarm near your furnace can save your life. Two or more in your home is better, but make sure to have at least one installed in your home. Carbon monoxide gas is odorless and colorless, so the only way to avoid disaster is with an alarm. Replace existing alarms every five years.


A programmable thermostat will save money in the long run. Take a few minutes to set it up each season, so you can let it run. This will save energy by not heating your home when you’re at work for instance.


Check your heating vents for obstructions. With a clean vent system you will have better heat flow, which will save energy. If you have never done this you might consider bringing in a professional.

Make sure you hire a crew with proper equipment. It’s essential they use compressed forced air and industrial vacuums. Too many small operators scam home owners by pretending to clean your vents with a personal vacuum cleaner.

Outdoor Exhaust Vents

Every winter do an inspection of your intake and exhaust vents. If your vents become blocked, carbon monoxide can back up into the house, and the furnace could even shut down.

For a professional opinion on your heating system, call Efficient Furnace. They will address your concerns and let you know what’s needed for peak performance.

Forced Air Furnace Maintenance – Radiant Heat, and Boilers

When your furnace gives up and the house is cold, repairs can get quite expensive. Better to call a professional before that happens