You may have a room that is already heated by an inefficient electric-resistance heater (often built into a wall), which you would like to upgrade. Or a room that is now heated by a fossil-fuel heater (perhaps a natural gas burning wall furnace), and you would like to phase out your use of fossil fuels. The easiest energy-efficient heating system upgrade is changing to a heat pump system. If you install a system like this, and then select 100% renewable electricity from MCE or your utility, you'll have highly efficient, renewable-energy sourced heating (and cooling).
An air source heat pump uses the ambient air as the heat source. By manipulating the pressure, temperature, and volume of a refrigerant in the compressor, it pulls heat from the outside air and delivers it inside a space, even if it is colder outside than inside. Some heat pumps can function well even with outside temperatures in the low teens. Heat pumps can work in reverse, taking heat from the inside of a room and delivering it to the outside, like your kitchen refrigerator. Heat pumps use one-third as much power, or less, compared to straight electric resistance type heaters. April is a “shoulder month,” neither winter nor summer, but we are more likely to use heating than cooling now. Air conditioning will have to be a topic for another time.
While there are “package” heat pumps, these are designed for entire homes. Split heat pumps are more commonly used. These consist of the outdoor “compressor” unit (similar to the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner), and an indoor “fan coil” unit. “Mini-split” heat pumps are small versions of split heat pumps, and are ideal for rooms where it is either not practical to use a whole house system, or where individual control is desired at the room. Some homes use only mini-split heat pumps, one per each living and bedroom space, rather than a central system – providing the ultimate thermal control throughout the home. Mini-split heat pumps often have the highest efficiency ratings of all heat pump types. Heat (or cool air) is delivered from the fan coil unit to the space by either a direct grill from the fan coil, or by a duct running from the fan coil to one or more air registers. The simplest, and least expensive, split heat pumps have the fan coil unit mounted on the inside of a wall, eliminating the need to place the fan coil in an attic or closet space – but at the aesthetic “expense” of seeing the unit on the room’s wall.
And don't forget that in any home heating and cooling situation it is important to make sure that the room in question, as well as the entire home, has adequate insulation. The BayREN program linked below can provide with plenty of information and resources on proper insulation.
You can find out more about mini-split systems by contacting an HVAC contractor. SCOCO suggests that you find a local contractor through the BayREN Home+ Program. Participating contractors have advanced training to make your house efficient, comfortable, and safe. BayREN contractors will work with you on projects that quality for home energy efficiency rebates, educating you on your options and doing a lot of the paperwork!
Be sure to sign up for the FREE Home Energy Upgrade workshop on April 19th to find out about all these resources.