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Is a Heat Pump the Right Heating and Cooling Option for Your Greensboro Home?

posted by: Bart Manning

Air source heat pumps are designed to transfer heat into or out of your house as needed, depending upon the season, to maintain your home comfort. These devices are very efficient, year-round combination heating and cooling systems that operate using electricity. Homeowners, especially those in relatively mild climates like ours here in Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, and surrounding areas, can save money on operating costs using a heat pump. However, like any home heating and cooling system, there are heat pump pros and cons to consider.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Heat pumps extract heat from the outdoor air in winter and bring it inside the house. In summertime, the process is reversed. Within the pump, a closed system of pipes contains refrigerant constantly running through while the unit is on. This refrigerant substance is one that changes state easily–transforming from a gas to vapor to liquid and back again, as it moves through the pipe loop.

Refrigerant is compressed in one area of the pipe system and it expands in another. When compressed, the refrigerant gets hot and is run over finned coils, where it gives off the heat. As it continues to travel through the loop, the refrigerant expands and runs through another set of coils/fins. It cools and is re-compressed. The heat pump process can run in either direction, bringing heat (absorbed from outdoors) into the home in winter or flushing heat (absorbed from indoor air) out, in summer. The compressor, fan and evaporator system runs on electricity, but only requires a small amount. Transferring heat, rather than generating it, as in traditional home comfort systems, is very energy efficient.

Backup Heating Options

Your HVAC contractor can install a conventional heat pump, with an outdoor condenser unit, along with an indoor evaporator and air handier. The air handler contains backup electric resistance heating and a fan to move conditioned air through the home’s duct system.

Another installation option is the add-on heat pump. In this case, your contractor adds the condenser and evaporator to your existing furnace or installs the components along with a new central heating system. Your backup heating system can be electrically powered or fueled by natural gas, oil or propane. When needed, the backup heating system switches on automatically to maintain your desired temperature/thermostat setting.

Choosing a natural gas, oil or propane furnace, rather than electric resistance heating, can save you money on operating costs. Your contractor can help you to determine how much you may save on utility bills with each installation option. Your HVAC technician can also explain how basic heat pump pros and cons apply to your specific home.

Heat Pump Pros and Cons

On the plus side

  • No need for separate furnace and air conditioner: You get year-round temperature control, both heating and cooling, with one system.
  • Lower heating energy costs: If you use your heat pump to heat your home as you do now, you could save a significant amount on your utility bill. (However, once heat pumps are installed, many homeowners choose to keep their homes warmed to a higher temperature than before. In that case, heating costs won’t decrease as much.)
  • No (or very low) gas bills.
  • Dehumidification: The pump dehumidifies when in cooling mode or dry mode, where it extracts moisture by switching between modes while keeping relatively consistent room temperature.
  • Property value: A heat pump can increase your home’s resale value.
  • We offer Carrier and Bryant heat pumps: These brands combine the latest features with high quality and reliability.

On the minus side

  • Noise: If located near the home’s sleeping areas, noise from the outside compressor unit could disturb you or your neighbors. The indoor component’s fan will be on as long as the heat pump is running, but tends to be relatively quiet.
  • Drafts: Locate the indoor unit away from areas where you often sit, to avoid uncomfortable drafts.
  • Backup heating needs: Heat pumps should be sized to meet your home’s cooling load requirements so that they can effectively control humidity. An alternative source of heating may be needed on nights when temperatures are near or below freezing. (Heat pumps may need to stop working for a few minutes to defrost components.) This backup can be provided by either a gas furnace or the more expensive electric resistance heat.

If you have questions about the heat pump pros and cons or other HVAC systems, contact the experts at Air Treatment, Inc. We offer complete home comfort solutions including installation, repair and maintenance.