Natural Gas Glut is Double Edged Sword

Natural gas prices have plummeted over the last two years due to the market glut as a result of the shale gas explosion created by hydrofracturing or “fracking”.  For energy consumers, this is a major financial benefit in that the market price for those heating with natural gas has fallen significantly.  This is also a boon to the electric generation industry, which has shifted new power generation facilities to natural gas turbines. The result has been a 50% reduction in costs for the US Power industry for national electric generation. How this has only equated to a LIPA 4.5% rate reduction is a question that should be asked of the State Public Service Commission. LIPA has said it is using the savings to write down losses and loans.  Still, LIPA’s rates are now at their lowest in 5 years.

There is such a glut of natural gas on the market that drillers and energy companies are cutting extraction and production in a play to increase and stabilize market prices. As energy companies have reaped windfall profits at higher energy prices, it behooves them to use Keynesian supply and demand principles to manipulate profits. Unfortunately, capital expansion of gas pipelines has not increased significantly to increase consumer demand. For example, I’ve been trying to get our local utility to extend the gas main 300 feet for the past 20 years.

An unfortunate byproduct of this natural gas boon is the effect that it has had on alternative energy sources. The combination of a harsh recession, disappearing federal tax credits and lower natural gas prices has seen consumers and municipalities running from alternative energy capital improvement projects. Wind power, solar and geothermal projects have all taken a hit since the return on investment has increased because of falling natural gas prices. “Cheap gas makes it difficult for rival forms of fuel to compete”, said Sam Brothwell, a senior utility analyst with Bloomberg Industries. Add to this that in an election year politicians are loathe to suggest energy taxation measures to create a level playing field and it pushes our window to achieve a fossil fuel free future into the next generation.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

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Finally, a Heat Pump for Low Ambient Temperatures

 A couple of the toughest things about living in the northeast is the vagaries of northern weather and the unavailability of natural gas for heating in many suburban and rural areas. This has left many without an option beyond No. 2 fuel oil. Although geothermal heat pumps are a much more efficient and cost effective long term solution, many do not have the discretionary savings to invest in a 5 or 6 year payback period. Air-cooled heat pumps have never been an acceptable alternative because the indoor discharge air temperatures left one shivering in low ambient outdoor conditions.  I installed a variable refrigerant heat pump system in my own home to use as a heat supplement in all but the lowest ambient conditions.

Enter the much ballyhooed variable speed compressor from Copeland. Copeland claims that their new technology will keep homeowners warm with up to 48% greater low ambient heating capacity and no drop off in evap side discharge temperatures. Copeland claims up to 13HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) in optimized heat pumps and 29% greater efficiency than any heat pump currently on the market.    Carrier is incorporating the variable compressor in their Infinity line with “Greenspeed Intelligence.”  Other manufacturers should follow suit shortly. This compressor will also be used in WaterFurnace’s new water-to-water geothermal heat pump that will be able to reach 160 degree discharge water temperatures and possibly replace many hot water boilers serving baseboard radiation.

Greater heating performance at lower outdoor ambient temperatures is only one excellent feature. These variable speed compressors should also be able to increase overall efficiency at part loads as well as provide optimum dehumidification, pushing the 20 SEER envelope.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

Nest Releases First WiFi Software Update

nestOne of the best things about a Nest Learning Thermostat is Nest’s ability to constantly work on software improvements and send (and receive) wifi updates whenever they are available. Our Nest thermostats just received a version 2.0 update that enhances and adds to the many features and benefits of Nest. New features include an enhanced energy history for you to view and tweak your energy savings. Nest has also introduced “Airwave” with this new update which is the ability to wring additional energy savings and dehumidification from the low evaporator coil temperature during compressor off-cycles via fan delay. Nest has also enabled automatic changeover, a new feature that probably should have been a part of its initial release. This is accomplished by allowing you to set minimum and maximum temperature range settings that, once hit during occupied or active modes, will change from heating to cooling or vice-versa. Of course, some of the greatest new features aren’t necessarily being downloaded to your Nest, they are update releases to your iPhone, iPad and Android apps that allow you to view a cornucopia of new information about your energy use and scheduling to further enhance your Nest experience, savings and sense of well-being. For more on the Nest 2.0 update, visit the update blog at this link.

Not only has Nest created an amazing hardware interface, but they have also made sure that your thermostat stays updated and will not become obsolete (like that old rectangular clunker that is still in the majority of homes unnecessarily siphoning fossil fuels and electricity). Nest puts those dollars back in your pocket, gives you a sexy looking eye-piece, the ability to remotely tweak it, some cool apps to play with, a guarantee against obsolescence via free wifi updates and bragging rights. What else could you ask for! Maybe that’s why CNET has just given Nest a very rare 5 Star spectacular review.  Even Time is in love with Nest and claims it is sparking a new revolution.

Oh yeah, and we have them available to install today.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!