Heat Pump Water Heater Rebate Reduction from SMUD Puts Pressure on Customers

SMUD’s rebate structure is one of the most generous ones around, especially compared to those available from PG&E.  But those rewards for going green won’t be around forever. 

SMUD’s Rebate Program Manager, Michael Corbett, in coordination with Efficiency First California, has developed a fantastic way to take care of emergency appliance replacements individually while still qualifying for the rebates.  The replacements include water heaters, HVAC systems, ductwork, insulation, and making your home “electric ready.”  In the past, the $13,000 total in rebates required replacement of all these items at once.  You’re now able to take care of these one at a time.

Rebates Won’t Be Around Forever

As the timeline shortens for mandatory building code changes in new homes, utility companies won’t have to provide these great rebates.  The heat pump water heater rebate reduction is an example of that.  SMUD encourages participating contractors like Fox Family Heating and Air to let folks know these rebates won’t be around forever.  They should take advantage of them before funds run out.

Everyone involved in SMUD’s new rebate structure has seen success.  In fact, in just two years, the volume of heat pump water heater installations through SMUD’s program has increased by 1,000%.  It’s been so successful, the funds to support these incentives are running out! 

SMUD Rebate Reductions

Starting April 1, 2020, the rebate for changing your gas water heater to a heat pump all-electric water heater drops by $500.  The $3,000 rebate will now be $2,500.  The $1,000 rebate for upgrading your electric water heater to a heat pump style water heater will now be $500.

Applications must be submitted and approved by March 31st, 2020 to receive the previous $3,000 or $1,000 SMUD rebate.  The utility company processes rebates on a first-come, first-served basis. Your project must meet the efficiency standards of the program as well as other terms and conditions. These include using a participating SMUD contractor and pulling a permit with the city or county.

For questions regarding the program, please email [email protected] or call 916-209-5117. For questions about your project or to schedule an installation, contact Fox Family — we’re ready to help!

Sacramento New AC, Furnace, or Heat Pump 2022-2023

Are You in The Sacramento Area Looking for A New A/C, Furnace, or Heat Pump? Residential Air Conditioners and Heaters Sacramento County 2022-2023

Sacramento Area

If you ask someone who isn’t from Sacramento County what they think of when you mention it, you may hear things like “It’s the State Capitol” or “That’s where gold was discovered, right?” or, more notably, maybe “the American River Bike Trail.” Contrary to the slightly disappointing answers you might get (minus the American River Bike Trail, of course), Sacramento County is full of rich history, fun things to do, and weather that can be pretty predictable.  With exceptionally hot summers being commonplace, though, Sacramento County can be the perfect place to get your old air conditioner and heater replaced if you’re not too keen on paddling through Folsom Lake.  Let’s take a look at Sacramento new AC, furnace or heat pump information for 2022-2023.

Quick Fox Family Heating & Air Fun Fact: Another reason folks call us out is to have an air conditioning tune-up or furnace tune-up performed. Some of you have all-electric heat pumps – and of course, we can perform a heat pump tune-up. These tune-ups are preventive maintenance visits that take about 45 to 90 minutes to test and clean your HVAC system. But you’re here to find out how much it costs to put in a new air conditioner and heater in Sacramento. That is what we are going to talk about today for you. We’re going to discuss several things regarding buying a new heating and air conditioning system in Sacramento County, which includes seven cities – five of which we work in.

What HVAC system options are available for Sacramentans? What might you pay for installation and maintenance after you buy a new HVAC system?

Furnaces, Air Conditioners, and Heat Pumps available in Sacramento County + Costs

In Sacramento County, you will find a few types of HVAC system designs – split systems, package units, and mini-splits. Do you want to know which one is right for you? I’m going to take this opportunity to explain what the difference between them is.

SPLIT SYSTEMS

Picture of an HVAC split system

Characteristics:

Flexible installationA split system – not to be confused with a mini-split system – can be installed in a few places. But typically, you will have an indoor unit paired up with an indoor unit. The outdoor unit is the condenser or heat pump. You may have seen it over on the side of the house. On the rarest occasions, you’ll find neighborhoods where the condenser is on the roof. The indoor unit is the furnace or air handler and can be located in the closet, garage, attic, or under the house in the basement or sub-floor. These two units are connected with a copper or aluminum lineset that carries the refrigerant. A low voltage wire also communicates when to turn on and off to and from those two units. Sometimes people will have a unit in the closet and want it moved up to the attic or other spot in the house. Sometimes a person wants the unit in the backyard moved around to the side of the house. And with the flexibility of a split system, you can move them around.

Central air – Central air conditioning units are attached to a ducting system that evenly spreads the air around the house. You’ll see those supply vents on the ceiling, sidewalls, or floor of the rooms in your house. That’s where the air comes out. And when you have one in each room, it distributes the air evenly throughout the home.

One or two main controls – Split systems have only one or two central thermostats to turn the system on and off. That alleviates having to go into each room to condition those rooms individually.

One drawback – When you have a furnace or air handler in the attic, servicing the unit requires going in and out of the attic access using a ladder. Not only does this require a nimble repairman, but it tends to dirty and bang up the access trim over time. You always want to keep up on your annual maintenance, so someone going up in the attic twice a year to do it increases the potential of this happening.

One surprise – The mini-split technology mentioned below is usually room-by-room conditioning. It’s very customizable. But if you really like your central airflow around the house, there are now “ducted” mini-split air handlers. If you remove your old gas furnace (or heat pump) and decide to move to an all-electric heat pump, the super-efficient variable speed ducted mini-split is a great choice. It simply reconnects to your existing duct system, and voila! You now have a variable speed system – at a way better price (about the same as a two-stage system.) Mitsubishi makes them up to 5 tons so that they can fit any residential house.

Mitsubishi SVZ Air Handler

Generally, your typical split central air conditioning system will start at around $15,000 and be as high as $25,000. And that’s not including the ductwork! Ductwork alone can cost $5000 to $10,000 to install or replace. But do you have to replace your ducts every time you replace your HVAC system? No. Watch this video I made to explain better why you don’t need to replace your ducts every time you replace your HVAC system. If you have an existing HVAC system and would like to have one or both parts of it moved, of course, that will add some money to the job too. It could be up to $5000 with everything entailed in the project.

While you can DIY the replacement of your HVAC system, the EPA requires certification to handle the refrigerant that goes into the lineset between the indoor and outdoor unit. They actually fine people for handling refrigerant with that EPA 608 certification. But once you have it, it’s a lifetime certification.

PACKAGE UNITS 

Characteristics:

Space friendlyPackage units are the least expensive of the systems. If you are converting a house with a wall furnace and window air conditioner to a house with central air conditioning, a package unit may not only be your choice; it may be your only choice for getting central air. Package units are one combined unit that takes care of the heating and cooling portions – all in one “packaged” unit. They are always found on rooftops or the ground. Either way, they sit outside. When package units are placed on the ground, they usually sit against the house on the side or back side of the house. In Sacramento County, you’ll find 90% of package units on the rooftop. How does that 400 lb unit get on the roof? A crane lifts it up there! An adjustable sheet metal curb is flashed into the comp-shingled roof, and the unit sits on top of that.

Central air – Package units attach to a ducting system that spreads the air around the house evenly – pretty much the same as split systems. You’ll see those supply vents on the ceiling, sidewalls, or floor of the rooms in your house. That’s where the air comes out. And when you have one in each room, it distributes the air evenly throughout the home.

One control unit – Very rarely will you see a package unit system with two thermostats. Homes with package units are used mostly on single-story houses with just one zone controlling the air for the whole house. If you’d like more information on what a zoned house is, you can follow this link.

One drawback – Package units mounted on the rooftop are a bit noisier than split systems and mini splits for one reason – vibration. For some people who are used to it, it’s just white noise in the background while they sleep. But if it’s new to you, it could drive you crazy. The compressor kicks on and off every time it turns on and shuts down. Compressors are a heavy 80 to 100 lb. motor that sits on the bottom of the unit, which is connected to the curb it sits on, which is flashed into your rooftop, which is laying on top of the roof joist, connected to the walls of the house. This dull vibrational noise is one drawback of the space-saving package unit.

Bosch 19 SEER hp packaged

One surprise – The efficiency of package units used to be very limited. But Bosch now sells a variable speed heat pump package unit that reaches 20 SEER. Granted, its blower speed is more of a three-speed motor. The system’s true nature is still considered variable speed due to its ability to ramp up and down the compressor at micro increments. It’s also much quieter on vibration since it tends to run at lower speeds most of the time. Doubly awesome!

Generally, your package unit installation will start at around $14,000. The higher, more efficient ones, around 20 SEER, are about $22,000. And that’s not including the ductwork! As I said before, installing or replacing ductwork can cost $5000 to $10,000. If your current setup is a wall furnace and window AC, you can ditch those and modernize your home to central air conditioning via a “package unit cut in” to your rooftop.

What makes this system cheaper to install than a split system? You have extra components to add when modernizing your wall furnace setup to a split system. I have a good video explaining this as well. For instance, when you have a furnace inside, whether in the closet or garage, you need a particular setup, including upper and lower combustion air vents. A special return air vent and furnace stand must also be constructed. These extra little things need to be brought up to code to cut in a split system versus a package unit on the roof.

Once you place a package unit on the roof, you aren’t going to be moving it. I mean, you can. But some expert roofing will need to be done to cover the 4’ x 2’ hole that is cut into it.

While you can DIY the replacement of your HVAC system, the big issue is getting the unit up and down from the rooftop. Crane companies typically only want to work with contractors who are insured.

MINI-SPLITS

Multi head systemCharacteristics:

CustomizableMini-splits, also known as variable speed ductless splits, are the most customizable of these three types of HVAC systems sold in Sacramento County. You can use a one-to-one or two-to-one setup (etc) if you just want to add supplemental heating or cooling to one or several rooms. One-to-one means one indoor head blowing the air into that room and one outdoor unit like the traditional splits system discussed above. You can also heat and cool the entire house if you want.

The quietest – Mini splits are by far the quietest units of the three compared here today. Talk about whisper quiet – you almost have to be right at the unit to tell that it’s even running. Its variable speed technology tends to run at lower speeds most of the day, which causes less noise, less rattling, less vibration, and less starting and stopping noise.

Space saving – Mini splits are super-efficient on space. You can choose from various indoor heads that blow the air into the room. You can choose the rectangular wall-mounted units that are so common with mini splits. But you can also choose between a couple of versions of ceiling-mounted units and even a floor-mounted unit that sits up against the wall.

One drawback – The upfront costs. Building out a system for your whole house gets pretty expensive. The reason is that the outdoor unit’s capacity needs to be higher the more heads are on the house. So while a one-to-one system might be around $6,000 installed, a small house with five conditioned rooms can be upwards of $30,000. But if it’s worth the system’s upfront cost, you can expect to see some great electric bills in the future for many years as these units are so reliable.

One surprise – Individual control of the rooms. One of the reasons you see lower electric bills with ductless mini splits is the ability to control each room’s temperature individually. You can do that if you want to keep an unused bedroom or two at 78 degrees, while the rest of the house is set at 72 degrees. Each room can be at a different temperature if you like.

DISCLAIMER: While some HVAC manufacturers sell indirectly (online stores) to homeowners, Fox Family HVAC systems are not available to purchase for DIY projects. For a turn-key installation, a complete Fox Family Heating and Air HVAC system could cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. And while you can DIY heating and cooling systems, we strongly recommend going through an experienced installer to avoid potential mistakes or having to throw way more money at your efforts later than you would have if you went through a professional. A licensed contractor with a conscious will pull your Sacramento County building permit for you and take care of the Title 24 documentation done through a HERS rater. It’s also regular practice for Sacramento HVAC companies to only work on the mini-split systems they install. There are so many DIY’ers of HVAC systems that the quality of installation is dicey at best. Companies usually don’t even want to touch these units to avoid any liability of it breaking down further due to best practices not being followed with the electrical and refrigerant piping systems.

Other Considerations

When Getting an HVAC system In Sacramento County – Do You Need a Permit for a new heating and air conditioning system in Sacramento County?

Yes. You must pull a permit in Sacramento County whenever you have a major project that alters the house’s electrical, plumbing, or structure. Incorporated cities like Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, and the city of Sacramento have their own building departments, so you would go through them for your project. Fox Family completes this process for you when you want to replace your AC system.

What do you do with the old HVAC unit?

We have a contract with a salvage company that comes out to the job on the day of the installation and hauls it away. They capture the old refrigerant inside the system, which the Environmental Protection Agency requires. They also break down the system to recycle all the metal and copper in the system and repurpose it for future use on a new component, structure, etc.

Check out this blog – If you’d like to learn about 11 Red Flags to Look Out for When Buying A New HVAC System, check out the blog I wrote.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a new A/C, Furnace, or Heat Pump in The Sacramento Area, I hope this helps with your venture. Most people simply replace the system they have now with a new version of the same. Others want to take the opportunity to try something different. The good thing about Sacramento County HVAC system installations is they let you make these changes. Some cities don’t. For instance, Sacramento city won’t let you cut in a new package unit on a rooftop unless it’s entirely not visible from the street – which can be hard to do with a package unit since they are around 40” tall.

We hope this quick overview was helpful in your HVAC system search. At Fox Family Heating & Air, our passion lies in servicing and installing gas furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, and mini splits across Sacramento County. Want to get a quick estimate on what that HVAC system you’re envisioning might cost? Please fill out our contact form, and we promise to get right back to you today or on the next business day.

The HVAC Industry Continues to Experience the Effects of COVID-19

HVAC and covid 19 Featured image

HVAC Supply Pricing Continuing To Rise

Folks who purchased their new AC system at the beginning of the year should be singing their praises.  The industry continues to see rising costs of materials combined with a shortage of workers.  

A colleague of mine said, “When something like COVID interrupts any part of the supply chain system, including how those parts get shipped from there to here. We’re experiencing a weird dynamic right now with worldwide stress, but also with a high demand for our products and services. Also, considering the low numbers of employees working in these factories, the only thing to expect is chaos. The scenario is creating an almost panic for our industry to perform.”

Halfway through the summer of 2021, things haven’t gotten any better.  We continue to be frustrated.  Selling equipment is tough enough, but to get the okay from a customer and potentially not have their equipment is challenging.  It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with since becoming a contractor in 2015.

What happens is, when we order our equipment online in the past, we could see the inventory levels of our distributor.  We would look up a particular furnace that matches up with a condenser and evaporator coil and see that they had 20 of those furnaces.  Now when we win a job, we have to submit the order and wait for the distributor to get back to us and let us know if they have the equipment to fill that order.  If they don’t, we have to call the customer back and let them know.

On a few occasions this year, we have had to offer the customer an entirely different brand than Trane, which has always been our equipment of choice.  This has worked out for those customers, and we appreciate them being flexible enough to understand.  

Every HVAC contractor in the United States is dealing with this equipment situation.  Manufacturers say they can’t get equipment out fast enough for the rising demand for new equipment.  This has created the highest rate of price increase we’ve seen in a very long time.  Each year, we typically see a 4% to 6% increase in the cost of equipment.  

attic furnace unit

This year we’ve already seen a 21% increase in that same equipment. This has resulted in your basic $10,000 HVAC system increasing by $2,000 in just one year.  Higher-end equipment has grown exponentially.

With a few to several more months of rapid inflation in the world’s economy, we continue to brace for whatever price increases we may see. These price increases ultimately get passed along to our customers. 

So, like we said this time last year, as we’re getting close to the end of the hottest time of the year, local suppliers should have an easier time restocking their shelves as demand goes down.  Winter months are relatively mild around the Sacramento Valley, so that we won’t get that high intensity of equipment change-outs experienced in other areas of the world with longer, colder winters.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed America get’s back to normal soon.  People need heating and air conditioning. It’s not a luxury for some people.  With continued demand and lower inventory of equipment and the parts that make that equipment up, inflation continues, stressing this contractor out.  

Stay safe and follow CDC guidelines so we can get through this sooner than later. Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you next time.

Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace

Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace

As an expert in the HVAC field, people ask me which is better:  heat pumps vs gas furnace?  

This is a question for the ages.  Predominantly, here in the Sacramento Valley, most people have gas furnaces.  This means they have a gas line plumbed from their meter on the side of the house that goes all the way up to the furnace in the attic, or closet or, or garage.  A smaller percentage of people in the Sacramento valley have all-electric heat pumps.  This just means electricity fuels all their heating needs.

So which is better? Let’s Explore Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace

Well, if you put the two together and feel the heat coming out of the registers on an all-electric heat pump, and then feel the heat coming out of the registers of a gas-fueled furnace, you’ll feel the gas furnace has warmer air coming out of it.  This alone is the major reason people choose gas furnaces over electric heat pumps.  

Let’s assume the air in your house is 65 degrees.  The air coming into the system is 65 degrees.  A gas furnace will heat that air by about 30 to 60 degrees.  I find that temperature difference to be more in the area of 45 to 55 degrees most of the time.   This means you will have anywhere from 95 to 125-degree air coming out of your registers.  In the winter, gas furnaces feel very nice for this reason.  Your house will warm up quickly with warm air like that coming out.

An all-electric heat pump will typically take your 65-degree air and warm it up about 20 degrees.  This will warm up your house, but it will take longer.  A heat pump uses your outdoor condenser too, which is way more expensive to operate than a gas-fueled furnace.  You know how expensive it is to run your AC in the summer right?  Well, it will be equally as expensive, if not more, to run your heat pump in the winter.  You see, the heat pump alone can only heat your house until it’s about 45 degrees outdoor temperature.  When it gets colder than that, there is almost no heat in the outdoor air to convert into heat for your house, so the dreaded “heat strips” will turn on.  The heat strips will dramatically increase your 20-degree difference to 35 to 60 degrees but will take just as much electricity to run as it does the outdoor unit.  This means you will be using summer weather electricity to run the outdoor unit and equally as much electricity to operate those heat strips.  You will warm up, it’s just doubly expensive to operate the heat pump and your heat strips in the winter.

Here in Sacramento County gas furnace are much less expensive to operate.  

If you don’t have natural gas or propane run to your house, then you have no choice, you’ll have to get a heat pump.  But, if you do have gas to your house, I think it’s much wiser to switch to a gas-fueled furnace.  You’ll get warmer air out of it, which feels great in the cold December and January months.  

Feel free to call me anytime to discuss our questions on getting a heat pump or gas furnace for your next furnace replacement.  Our phone number is 916-877-1577 or you can email us.  

Air Source Heat Pump Basics

Air Source Heat Pump Basics

Heat pumps and air conditioners are very similar. I want to share my experience with heat pumps and how they operate to give you cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

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