Choosing the Right Heat Pump

There are several factors to consider before buying a heat pump. Here are some things to take into account.

 

Initial Costs Versus Operating Costs

The biggest expense over the life of a heat pump (or any heating and cooling system) is not the cost of buying and installing it. It's the accumulated monthly cost of running it year after year. Usually, as the efficiency rating of a unit goes up, so does the initial cost. However, as the efficiency rating goes up, the monthly cost to operate the unit goes down. You'll want to consider the importance of a high-efficiency system and the trade-off between your initial cost and the monthly operating costs. If you’re planning on living in the same house five years or more, consider installing a more efficient system.

 

Size

To work most efficiently, a heat pump's heating and cooling capacity has to match your home's heating and cooling demands. An undersized system won't adequately cool your home, while an oversized one won't dehumidify properly and can make the house feel drafty in the winter. As a member of the Quality Contractor Network (QCN) we can best tell you what you'll need.

 

Duct System

This is very important because the heat pump will pump air all through your house using this system. The ductwork must be insulated and sealed properly so the air gets where it's going at the right temperature. Proper construction of the ductwork is essential to ensure efficient operation of the heat pump over the life of the system. Care taken in the initial construction and sealing of the ductwork will yield maximum efficiency from the heat pump for years to come. Again, as a member of the QCN we can best tell you whether you'll be able to use your existing ductwork or will need new ducts.

Air Source Electric Heat Pumps

 

This is the most common type of heat pump, and there are two basic kinds. The layout of your home will usually determine which one you'll want.

 

Packaged heat pumps

The packaged heat pump is a self-contained unit that allows the compressor and both heat exchangers to be located outside your home. The unit uses ductwork to heat and cool your entire home. Several types of packaged heat pumps, called packaged terminal, self-contained through-the-wall, or window heat pumps are used for single rooms and don't need ductwork.

 

Split-system heat pumps

The second type, called the split system heat pump, is the more common of the two air source choices. In this type the indoor air-handling unit and heat exchanger are separate from the compressor and the outdoor exchanger. This allows you more options on where you install it. Whole-house heating and cooling occurs via ductwork.

There are also two special kinds of special split-system heat pumps. The triple-function heat pump not only warms and cools your home, it also heats your water. By removing heat from the system's refrigerant and using it to heat water, it provides essentially free water heating during the summer and a much more efficient use of electricity for heating water in the winter.

The free-delivery split-system heat pump has one outdoor unit and one or more indoor units. It allows you to heat or cool individual areas in your home by circulating refrigerant to each indoor unit. Each area has its own thermostat. No ductwork is needed.

 

Efficiencies

The heating efficiency of an air source heat pump is measured as the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), and typically ranges from 7.7 to 8.1. Cooling efficiency for these heat pumps is indicated by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), which typically falls between 13.0 and 16.0. The higher the number, the better the system.

Dual-Fuel Heat Pumps

A dual-fuel heat pump is an electric heat pump and a gas furnace all in one. In the Tennessee Valley, where temperatures are typically above freezing and we enjoy some of the lowest electric rates in the U.S., a heat pump is the most efficient way to heat your home. In those few instances when the temperature drops below freezing, a gas furnace provides heat more economically. By combining the two, you can have the benefits of both systems.

 

How it works

When the temperature is above 35 degrees or so, the dual-fuel heat pump uses electricity to heat your home as necessary. This type of heat circulates evenly throughout your home, and isn't too dry. When it gets really cold outside (around 35 degrees or lower), the heat pump automatically switches to supplemental gas heat for better efficiency.

Because there are advantages and disadvantages to both a heat pump and gas furnace based on the outdoor temperature, the dual-fuel solution really does give you the best of both worlds. It's the most comfortable heating system at any outdoor temperature, as well as one of the most efficient, versatile, and economical heating-and-cooling systems you can buy.

 

Cost

A dual-fuel unit costs about $600 to $1,000 more than conventional heating and cooling systems because you’re getting essentially two systems in one. But the amount you'll save in the next two to three years from lower heating costs will more than make up the difference you'll spend on a better system.

 

Choosing a system

There are several different brands and models to choose from. The most noticeable differences between them will be the price, and whether they'll be installed inside or outside your home. There are fewer packaged models available on the market. These systems are also more expensive than split systems. As a member of the Quality Contractor Network (QCN) we can recommend which one is best for your needs.

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