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Heating & Heat Pumps


Heat Pumps

Electric air-source heat pumps, often used in moderate climates, use the difference between outdoor air temperatures and indoor air temperatures to cool and heat your home. Saving energy prevents pollution and by choosing an Energy Star and taking steps to optimize the performance of your heating and cooling equipment, you are helping to prevent global warming and promoting cleaner air while enhancing the comfort of your home.

Energy Star Heat Pumps can be more expensive to purchase up front, but the cost difference will be paid back over time through lower energy bills. When buying new heat pump equipment, sizing and installation are as important as the quality of your heat pump. You can get better heating and cooling performance at home with an Energy Star home insulation, air sealing, and duct sealing.

Consider regular preventative maintenance to maintain your heating and cooling system performance.

Geo Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but use the ground instead of outside air to provide heating, air conditioning and, in most cases, hot water. Because they use the earth’s natural heat, they are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available.


A Geo heat pump not only heats your home during the winter, it also cools it during the summer. It does not burn fuel to produce heat nor does the electricity it consumes go through an element. The Geothermal heat pump functions on the same principle as refrigerators and air conditioners: A liquid absorbs heat as it turns into a gas and releases heat as it returns to a liquid state.

During the summer, the geothermal heat pump operates as a standard central air conditioner: It removes heat from the house and vents it to the outside. A liquid refrigerant is pumped through an evaporator coil of tubing. The liquid expands as it moves through the coil, changing to its gaseous state as it absorbs heat from the air surrounding the coil. A blower then pushes air around the cooled coil through ducts and into the house. The gas, now carrying considerable heat, moves through a compressor and begins the liquefying process. It then moves to a condenser coil outside the house, where the compressed gas releases its heat and returns to a liquid state.

During the winter, the Geo heat pump reverses this process, extracting heat from the cold air outside and releasing it inside the house. The geothermal heat pump is very efficient when the outside temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but it becomes less efficient as the temperature drops. When the outside air temperature is very low, an auxiliary electric heater must be used to supplement the Geo heat pump’s output.

Like standard electric heating systems, this auxiliary unit is more expensive to operate. Thus, in areas where the winter temperature is below freezing, a Geo heat pump is not practical. It has few advantages over conventional heating systems in areas where air conditioning is not necessary, but it is very efficient in warm to hot climates.

Geo Heat pump maintenance is very important. Sign up for a preventative maintenance plan today, to ensure your Geo heat pump runs optimally all year round. Small problems that are not addressed early can lead to very expensive compressor problems later. And since maintaining a Geo heat pump is more technical than caring for the average heating system, you should call on James River Air’s qualified heating and air specialists when the heat pump malfunctions. But you can, however, keep the heating and cooling system free of dirt and debris by keeping the filter clean and removing any other obstacles that block the flow of air.

Proper outdoor maintenance of a heat pump is also important:

  1. It’s important to replace the filters and clean and lubricate the components of a heat pump on a regular basis.
  2. But heat pumps, like central air conditioners, have an outdoor unit that contains a compressor, a coil, a fan, and other components. To function properly, this unit should be kept free of debris such as leaves and dirt. The unit should be level on its concrete support pad.
  3. Clean pine needles, leaves, and dirt out of updraft fans by removing the grille, which is held to the frame by a series of retaining screws. Make sure the power to the unit is off before tackling this type of cleaning. A vacuum cleaner hose can sometimes be inserted between the fan blades to remove debris from the sides and bottom of the unit.
  4. At the beginning of each heating season, set a carpenters’ level across the top of the metal cabinet and check the level from side to side and from front to back. If the unit is no longer level on the pad, lift the pad back to level by prying it up with a pry bar or a piece of 2-by-4. Build up the ground under it with stone or crushed rock. Also check the piping insulation for deterioration. If this insulation is faulty, replace it with new insulation, available at heating supply stores. Installation instructions are usually provided by the manufacturer.

Heat Pump Power Interruptions

If a heat pump has been off for more than an hour because of a blown fuse, a tripped circuit breaker, or a utility power failure, the unit should not be operaed for about six to eight hours, especially if the temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

The lubricant in the heat pump’s oil reservoir may be too cool to circulate properly and may cause damage to the valves of the unit. Instead, set the heat pump on emergency heat. This turns the heat pump off and keeps it from running.

Leave the pump in this mode for about six to eight hours, and then switch the heat pump to its normal heating setting. If little or no heat is generated at this point, call James River Air’s professional heating and air service technicians for repairs.


Furnaces are the most common residential heating system in the United States. James River Air Conditioning installs and services all types of furnaces, including oil, natural gas, LP gas, and electric.

A furnace is a forced-air system. Warm air is blown through a duct system to each room. Air drawn into the furnace passes through a filter, where dust and other small particles are trapped. A blower unit blows the filtered air through the furnace, and the air absorbs heat.

The majority of furnaces we install today are gas furnaces. On a gas furnace, the heat is supplied by the burning of natural or LP gas. A mixture of gas and air flows into the burner and is ignited by the pilot. Combustion occurs, and warm air from the burner flame rises to fill a chamber known as a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger becomes hot, and air passing around the heat exchanger absorbs that warmth, continues into the air ducts and the heat is distributed through the home. The by-products of combustion pass upward through a venting system and escape through a vent in the roof. Over the years, manufacturers have made great improvements in the efficiency of these systems.

If you have an older, inefficient furnace, call James River to get a recommendation on a new, high-efficiency system.