Because heat pumps use the most efficient electric heating and cooling technology, they’re an excellent choice if your home needs a heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrade. While an electric resistance heater is about 100-percent efficient – meaning all the electricity that goes into it is used to generate heat – today’s heat pumps can claim efficiencies of 200 to 400 percent.
The proper heat pump for your home depends on a variety of factors. Here are some tips to use when con- sidering air-source and ground-source heat pumps.
The number of choices is growing
In the cooling mode, an air-source heat pump functions similarly to an air conditioner by moving heat from in- side to outside your home. In the heat- ing mode, the refrigerant flow is re- versed and delivers warm air indoors.
When outdoor temperatures drop significantly, the efficiency of an air- source heat pump decreases – and it can shift into an auxiliary heating mode, essentially making the unit an electric resistance furnace. Older heat pumps were much more sensitive to cold temperatures below 20 degrees, consuming more energy and forcing your power bill up.
New heat pumps are much more efficient, and a relatively new option in the marketplace – a dual-fuel setup that combines an air-source heat pump with a natural gas-, propane- or heat- ing oil-fired furnace – may be worth considering. You also might look into a ductless system instead of going the traditional ducted air-source heat pump route. A ductless system can require about 50 to 60 percent less elec- tricity than electric resistance heating, but it’s not a practical choice for some homes. In addition, air-source heat pumps that achieve Energy Star® desig- nation – meaning they meet or exceed federal energy efficiency standards – can be up to 9 percent more efficient than standard air-source heat pumps.
Go underground for heating and cooling
A ground-source heat pump, also called a geothermal heat pump, uses relatively stable underground tempera- tures to heat and cool your home – and even to supply hot water. There are two types: A groundwater (open-loop) heat pump that uses well water and an earth-coupled (closed-loop) model that
moves a water-and-antifreeze solution through underground pipes to disperse heat. The choice depends on your par- ticular situation.
A ground-source heat pump tends to be the most efficient heating and cooling technology available, but the up-front cost is significantly higher than for an air-source heat pump. A typical residential consumer selecting a geothermal system will save 30 to 60 percent on an average heating and cooling bill, with a payback period varying from 2 to 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Call your electric cooperative
Choosing a new heating and cooling system for your home is a big decision with lots of variables. Be sure to call your local electric co-op for advice on what type of unit will work best for you; also ask if your co-op offers any incentives or rebates for installing a heat pump. Then contact reputable and knowledgeable heating and cooling contractors to discuss your options.