Heat Pumps

Basic heat pump information

The mounting costs of traditional energy sources, such as propane and natural gas, have motivated many homeowners to ditch the furnace and air conditioner in favor of a heat pump system. Heat pumps provide an alternative method of heating and cooling homes while reducing the impact on the environment. A heat pump system can be an expensive installation, so before you make the conversion, it is important to know whether a heat pump will be beneficial in your home.

Advertiser Links for Heat Pumps
[what's this?]

What to Consider Before Installing a Heat Pump

Heat pumps function by transferring heat extracted from the air or ground into the house for heating and transferring indoor heat to the outdoors for cooling. When the temperature is below 40 degrees, the system has to work much harder to maintain a steady heat, so heat pumps are not the best option in all circumstances. Furthermore, heat pumps are electric appliances, and when additional energy is required to maintain the temperature, they rely on costly auxiliary power (electric resistance coils) to make up the difference. For this reason, many owners also keep a furnace for backup heating when the air is too cold.

The local climate and energy costs should guide your decision to install a heat pump (or not). In areas where the temperature is frequently above 40 degrees during colder seasons, an additional furnace would not be necessary, making a heat pump an affordable option. A heat pump is also a reasonable investment if petroleum costs in your area are permanently higher than electricity. You should also consider long-term costs and returns, as the investment is only worthwhile if you're planning to remain in your home for 10 years or more.

If you're set on converting but don't have the ideal conditions, consider buying a geothermal heat pump, which maintains an even temperature by extracting the heat from the ground. This system uses only renewable energy and is capable of lowering your energy bills more than 30 percent. Geothermal heat pumps are twice the price of a regular system when you include the cost of drilling, though, so these long-term savings come at the cost of a heavy initial investment.

Purchasing Heat Pumps

Heat pump prices range from the low thousands to well over $10,000 when complex installation is required. You may also need to buy a heat pump thermostat, which will tell you when the appliance is using auxiliary power. Purchasing an efficient and correctly sized heat pump will help you to recoup these initial costs.

Heat pump ratings are divided into the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) for cooling and the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) for heating. Residents in very warm areas should focus on a higher SEER rating, while a higher HSPF rating is essential for colder climates. High-efficiency heat pump prices are much higher, so it is better to settle for lower efficiency if you'll only be using the appliance for a few years.

Picking a first-rate contractor is essential, as they will be responsible for assisting you in choosing the right size, brand and efficiency, in addition to completing the heat pump installation itself. The contractor should always perform a heating load calculation for your home in order to determine the right capacity and discuss the long-term costs of various appliance and setup options.

The contractor should also be willing to maintain an ongoing relationship to assist with maintenance problems and questions in the future. Find a contractor through reliable referrals like friends, family and HVAC services, and always compare estimates from more than one company. Putting time into researching beforehand will undoubtedly reduce frustrations after your new heating system is in place.