How Can You Efficiently Heat & Cool a Small Home?

If you're planning to downsize to a smaller house in the next few years, you are likely happy to see that small, efficient homes are beginning to buck the McMansion trend. The increasing popularity of smaller, less expensive homes should help your home maintain and increase its resale value throughout your retirement years. However, if you've grown accustomed to living in a larger home, you may feel lost when it comes time to select a HVAC system for your smaller home. Read on to learn more about the most energy-efficient ways to heat and cool a small home.

Ductless heat pump

If your home has been constructed without interior ductwork, the prospect of retrofitting a central heating or air conditioning system may not seem the best use of your time or resources, and could even affect your home's insulation. Fortunately, there are now a number of duct-free options that can keep your home a comfortable temperature year-round without requiring any additional construction. 

Despite its name, a ductless heat pump provides cool air during the summer as well as warm air in the winter. These heat pumps operate using an exterior compressor, which removes heat from the outside air in the summer, pumping cool air into your home. During the winter, this compressor will continue to remove heat from the outside air, but will instead pump this heated air into your home. Because this compressor connects with the register through a flexible line of tubing, you're free to install the duct anywhere convenient—whether behind the chairs where you regularly sit or near the ceiling in the center of your home to most efficiently spread climate-controlled air. 

Because these heat pumps serve a dual purpose and are much smaller than most exterior air conditioning compressors, they're highly efficient and shouldn't add much to your monthly utility bills. This low cost of ownership will continue to pay dividends, both in the form of money in your pocket each month and in the form of higher resale values for budget-minded home buyers.

Exterior wood stove

If you live in a colder northern climate, you may feel you can make do without air conditioning for the few warm weeks or months of the year, but need something more substantial for your lengthy winters. An exterior wood stove can provide an eco-friendly and efficient way to heat your home without any of the fire risk or smoky smell of an interior wood stove.

An exterior wood stove is installed a safe distance from your home, and an insulated pipe is run underground from the base of the wood stove to your home's foundation. This warmed air can then be run through a central heater or funneled through a radiator or other distributor. Because all smoke created is ventilated through the top of the outdoor wood stove, the air coming to your home is odor-free, and provides only warmth. 

Although these stoves can be somewhat costly to install, their ongoing maintenance costs are nearly nothing; if you have a reliable source of free or cheap slow-burning wood, you'll be able to heat your house all winter without ever paying an energy bill. 

Portable air conditioners

On the other side of the coin, those in warmer climates who experience only a few weeks of chilly weather may be able to get by with space heaters during this time, but require a heavy-duty air conditioning system to stay comfortable during the long, hot summers.

If this is the case, a portable air conditioner may be a good option to help keep portions of your home at a comfortable temperature. The primary advantage of a portable air conditioner over a window unit is its flexibility. If you spend time in each room of your house throughout the day, you may be reluctant to purchase a window unit for each room. Luckily, you can simply move a portable unit along with you as you enter and exit each room.

These units operate in a similar manner as a window unit, but rather than venting condensation and hot air through a grill in the back of the unit, these portable units vent through a flexible hose that will need to be placed outside. Depending upon the length of the hose and the distance you'll need to move the unit, you can choose to vent a portable air conditioner through a window, door, or small opening drilled into the wall. 

Learn more about your options by consulting resources like Salem Heating & Sheet Metal, Inc.