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How Does a Heat Pump Operate? And Other Common Questions About Your Heating System

Ever wonder how your heat pump system operates? Unless you’re just a naturally curious person, something may be wrong with your HVAC system and it’s got you wondering how it all works. Or maybe you’re a new heat pump owner and you’d like to learn more about your new system. Read below on some basic information about how your heat pump works and other common questions about your heating system.

How Does a Heat Pump Operate?

Heat pumps move air between inside the home and outside the home, but they do not actually generate heat like a furnace does. Instead, they absorb heat energy from the outdoors and transfer it indoors. You can also use a heat pump to cool a building. When it is in cooling mode, it reverses the heat process by absorbing heat from indoors and transferring it outdoors.

A heat pump has a fan and a condenser coil on the outdoor unit and an evaporator coil on the indoor unit. The system is sealed and contains refrigerant. Your outdoor condenser fan pulls the outside air across the coils and the coils act as a condenser when cooling and as an evaporator when in heat mode. The indoor unit does the opposite. The fans blow the indoor air across the coils and the coils act as a condenser when heating and an evaporator when cooling. 

A heat pump transfers heat energy versus producing through the combustion of fossil fuel, they are often more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly than a standard furnace. Contact us at R & B Climate Control, and we will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Why Does the Air from the Register Seem Cold to the Touch During Heating Mode?

If you feel cold air coming from the register and you’re wondering why, first determine whether your home is at the desired temperature. Heat pumps are different than furnaces, because they don’t generate heat through combustion.  The air that comes out of the registers can be far cooler than the heat a furnace produces. The air from a heat pump is plenty warm to heat your home to its desired temperature (although heat pumps do work best in moderate climates), but it may feel cooler than a furnace.  Your skin temperature is generally around 96 degrees, and often times a heat pump’s discharge air temperature coming from the registers may be below that… it feels cool to the touch. 

Why Do I See the Emergency Heat Light on My Thermostat?

If you see the emergency heat light on your thermostat, then your heat pump is unable to heat your home to your desired temperature. If your heat pump is unable to absorb enough heat energy from the outside and heat your home, then the emergency heat will switch on. When this happens, your home is being heated by a secondary source – usually, by electric strip heat – and this can become quite costly. If your emergency heat source is fueled by gas, then you can use it for longer periods of time without the substantial costs you would see with electricity.

As long as the emergency heat light turned on automatically, your heat pump is fine – just unable to keep up with cold temperatures (typically below 30 degrees). This is the reason why heat pumps are great for moderate climates. 

Why Is There Ice on the Outdoor Unit?

Sometimes frost or ice form on the outdoor unit of your heat pump because the unit’s outdoor condenser coil has become extremely cold from prolonged operation and/or very cold outside temperatures. When the outside temperatures and the refrigerant temperatures become too cold, the unit will be covered in frost or ice. When this happens, the heat pump will reverse into cooling mode (don’t worry your home will be heated by a secondary source) and defrost the outdoor unit.  This will help warm the coil temperature to melt the ice. Once the ice is melted, your heat pump will resume normal operation.

With that being said; if you notice the ice does not melt, it’s wise to contact your local experts at R & B Climate Control to check your system. There may be a problem with the refrigerant level, air flow, temperature sensors, or your indoor or outdoor fan. 

Keep in mind, your heat pump needs regular maintenance. Schedule your regular maintenance now with R & B Climate to ensure that your heat pump is clean and working efficiently. Take care of your HVAC system so it can take care of you.

Questions to Ask Your Contractor Before Replacing Your Heating System?

You’ve decided to replace your heating system, but you’re not sure what type of system you should buy? Should you stick to what you already have, or is there something better? What’s all this about energy efficiency ratings – is it worth the hype? Read below for some questions you should ask your local heating and air contractor before you replace your heating system.

Should I Repair or Replace My Heating System in Fort Mill?

You might think it’s time to replace your unit, but is it? Would it be better to repair at this time and replace down the road? If it’s an older system, the answer will usually be to replace, because repairing a furnace can be expensive and your system is likely not running at its maximum efficiency anyway, which can cost you money in your heating bills. 

What Size and Type Heating System is best for our home?

Often times, your heating system is either too big or too small for your home. You should speak to a certified HVAC contractor to make sure that your new heating system is sized correctly for your home and its heating needs. They will perform a load calculation on your home to ensure you have the correctly sized system.

You’ll also want to discuss the different options of heating systems available to you. Which energy sources are available to you, and which one is most economical in your region? For example, gas furnaces are commonly found in the Charlotte area, but in the Fort Mill and Rock Hill areas electric furnaces or heat pumps may be more economical. There are many options to choose from to heat your home; from high-efficiency gas furnaces, multi-stage heat pumps, to ductless mini-splits. We recommend you speak to a professional about what makes the most sense for your home.  The local experts at R & B Climate Control can help you make the right decision for you and your family. 

What Does the AFUE Rating Mean and Does It Matter?

An AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) is a type of percent rating that indicates how much of the heat goes toward heating your home and how much is wasted. For example, if the rating is 80% then 80% of the energy is in your home, while 20% is wasted. If the rating is 90%, then 90% goes toward heating your home and 10% is wasted. Keep in mind, you pay for 100%. The rating lets you know how efficiently your furnace is operating. 

Why would you consider buying the lower AFUE then? While most people would prefer a higher efficiency heating system, it comes with a price tag. There are also installation issues to consider.  Your local heating and air company, R & B Climate Control can help you determine which is system is best for your home. High-efficiency furnaces may be more expensive, but the fuel savings can outweigh the initial costs of the installation.

What Should the Warranty Cover and Should I Purchase an Extended Warranty?

Not all warranties are alike. There are manufacturer’s warranties and extended warranties. Manufacturer’s warranties do not cover all the same things. Before purchasing your new heating system, speak to your HVAC contractor about what is covered in the manufacturer’s warranty. You may find that you like the price of one system, but the warranty is lacking. Look at the warranty’s coverage as well as the warranty term.

Extended warranties can add additional years to the coverage of the manufacturer’s warranty. Speak to your HVAC contractor about what is covered in the manufacturer’s warranty, and you may want to consider whether you will be prepared to pay out of pocket for those parts if you decline. Extended warranties can also cover the cost of labor, which a manufacturer’s warranty will not. Labor can be expensive when it comes to major repairs.

Keep in mind; warranties may be voided if regular maintenance is not performed on your system.  It is in your best interest to maintain a regular maintenance schedule on your home’s heating and air conditioning system.  R & B Climate Control offers a top-quality maintenance program that will help maintain peak efficiency and increase the longevity of your heating system. (Learn more about the benefits of a maintenance plan with R &B)

What is the Estimated Cost and Are There Any Available Rebates or Tax Credits?

When your HVAC contractor comes to your home to speak with you about a new heating system, they should be able to provide you with a written estimate as well as tell you about available rebates and tax credits. Often, you may receive additional benefits (such as rebates or tax credits) for purchasing a higher efficiency system.  Contact us at R & B Climate Control, and we can answer any questions you may have!

Fall Furnace Shopping Checklist – What I Need to Know Before I Purchase

Oh, the joys of shopping. Yes, furnace shopping. Furnace shopping is not something you typically just do on a whim, as you might with home décor or new clothes. Rather, shopping for a new furnace is driven by need. Either you know your furnace only has a limited amount of time left (pat your own back for being proactive) or it’s already stopped working. Furnace shopping can be tedious and overwhelming but do your homework before you start your search and your shopping experience will be a lot less painful.

Energy Source Choices in Area

Know which type of energy source your home uses for its heating needs. While most people will replace a furnace with the same type of energy source already used, it is possible to change energy sources for your home. Speak to one of the experts at R & B Climate Control to determine if this is even possible.  There could factors that prevent you from changing from electric to gas for example.  Also, we can help you determine if it makes financial sense to do so.

Gas furnaces are very common and economical in the Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and Indian Land areas. The initial cost of a gas furnace can be more expensive than an electric furnace. Depending upon your home and utility provider natural gas may be less expensive than electricity, or it could be the other way around. Many factors play a role into which fuel source is more efficient to operate; such as, furnace AFUE efficiency, natural gas vs. propane, and SEER and HSPF rating of a heat pump. Typically, when using electric as your heat source, we are talking about a heat pump.  This type of system uses only electricity to heat and cool your home.

Size is Critical When Purchasing a New Furnace

Consumers typically fall into two categories when it comes to choosing a size for their furnace. Some want a larger furnace believing that bigger is better, and others want a smaller furnace because they believe bigger furnaces are just a marketing ploy. Both categories of consumers are wrong. 

If you choose a furnace that is too small, your furnace will struggle to warm your home and keep you comfortable. If your furnace is too big, then it will cycle on and off and cause unnecessary wear and tear to your heating system. 

The size furnace you choose should be all about your home and heating needs. The best way to determine the size you need is to have a certified HVAC technician from R & B Climate Control prepare a load calculation. Not only will they measure your square footage but they also take into account direct sources of sunlight and shady areas, the number of windows in your home, and the amount of insulation in your home. 


An AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) is a type of percent rating that indicates how much of the energy heats your home and how much is wasted. For example, if the rating is 80%, then 80% of the energy is used in your home, while 20% is wasted. If the rating is 90%, then 90% goes toward heating your home and 10% is wasted. Keep in mind, you pay for 100%. The rating lets you know what is wasted and what your home will actually use. 

A furnace that has an 80% rating is less expensive but you will see larger savings over the long run with the 90% furnace. Research which is better for you and your budget, the 80% or the 90% furnace, and you should also speak to a qualified professional at R &B Climate to help you make a decision.

Remember the Warranty is Important

You’ll also want to research which furnaces offer the best warranties. Look for manufacturer warranties with the most coverage, and you can consult an expert at R & B about the addition of an extended warranty for your new heating system. And, as always remember to keep to a regular maintenance schedule, to ensure you keep your heating system’s warranty valid.

How to Prevent a Clogged AC Drain Line in Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and Indian Land?

Your A/C condensate drain line is a PVC pipe that exits your house and is typically located near your outdoor air conditioner.  The drain line connects to your indoor evaporator coil. The drain line removes the condensation produced by the evaporator coil (This is box attached to your furnace or inside your indoor air handler) and carries it to the outside of your home. But where there’s condensation, there’s always the possibility of mold and bacterial growth. Mold, bacteria, algae, as well as sediment and even insects, can build up inside your drain line. These can form a clog in your condensate line.  This will cause the water to back up into your home and will fill the drain pan located under your furnace and coil or air handler. Once the drain pan overflows, well you now have a major mess on your hands!

A clogged A/C drain line is one of the most common problems HVAC technicians are called to homes for during the summer or air conditioning season.

Read below to find out what you to do when your A/C drain line is clogged and how you can prevent it.

What to Do in Five Easy Steps:  Check out this short how-to video

  1. Turn off your air conditioner at both the thermostat and the breaker.
  2. Find your drain line exit point (remember it’s the PVC pipe attached to your home) and the access point (which is a T-shaped pipe with a cover or cap attached to your indoor unit).
  3. Check for anything that might have clogged the exit point (this may require a ladder as some units are in the attic – move to step 4 if you don’t have a ladder or feel comfortable climbing). If you can’t find the source of the clog there, then remove the cap to the access point. 
  4. If you can’t see a clog, pour household bleach into the line. Start with a ¼ cup to a ½ cup. Give it 30 minutes and see if anything came out the exit point. If not, try again and see if that clears it out. 
  5. If you still can’t unclog it, you can try attaching a wet-dry vacuum where the line exits your home. (See the video above)

How Do You Prevent a Clogged Drain Line in Fort Mill, SC

Not only should you use the liquid bleach to unclog your A/C drain line, but you should always use it as a preventative measure. Once or twice per summer pour a ½ cup of bleach into the drain from the access point at the indoor unit. This will clean the drain and kill bacteria, mold, and algae growth. Also, it is good to keep to a regular maintenance schedule.  R & B Climate Control will service your air conditioning system twice per year to keep it operating at factory specs. They will ensure your unit is clean and functioning efficiently. A little preventative care goes a long way in protecting your air conditioner.  Trust who your neighbors trust in Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and Indian Land, SC – R & B Climate Control!