Heating and air conditioning accounts for more than 50 percent of the energy you use to run your home, so being more efficient in these areas can save you big bucks each month.
Moving away from a traditional central air conditioning system to a heat pump might be your best way to improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling system, according to our partners at the consumer guide Angie's List. But there are some downsides.
Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List , said the savings can be substantial if you normally heat with electric.
"Adding a heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity used for heating by as much as 30 percent,” she said.
There are a lot of misconceptions about heat pumps. Yes, they do heat your home, but they can also cool your home. The name "heat pump" simply refers to the process used to do it. A heat pump uses electricity to move heat rather than generate heat.
Because of this, they can provide up to four times the amount of energy they consume. It cools by drawing heat out of a home and warms by condensing and pumping heat from the air into a home.
Chris Cunningham, a heating and cooling contractor explains why they are so energy efficient.
“A heat pump is a good energy efficient option because instead of using natural gas to heat your home on the milder days, you are using electricity which is more efficient and better for the overall environment. So instead of burning fossil fuels you are actually using heat that is outside in the air.”
There are two types of heat pumps:
• Air source heat pumps: These are the most common type of heat pumps. They draw heat from the outside air. Industry experts say you can reduce the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30 percent if you heat with electricity. However, using these alone is best in temperate climates, such as Georgia and Carolinas.
• Geothermal heat pumps: Use the ground instead of the air to provide heating and cooling. In northern areas, like Ohio, these are prefered by many contractors. That's because a standard heat pump doesn't work well when temperatures fall below 20 degrees. They they revert to standard electric heating....which is expensive.
Both units typically feature a backup heater or furnace to help if temperatures swing too dramatically. Both deliver better efficiency that conventional HVAC systems, but geothermal is more efficient than an air source heat pump. However, geothermal is more expensive to install due to significant excavation required.
The cost is determined by installation and options. An average air source heat pump costs between $5,000 and $10,000. A geothermal system can cost as much as $20,000 to $30,000 or more, but if you stay in your home for a long time you can expect to see a significant return in lower operating costs.
Tax credits are available. Homeowners who add a qualifying air source heat pump or a geothermal heat pump can receive a tax credit through the government’s Energy Star program.
Before you install a heat pump, talk to a reputable HVAC contractor about whether a heat pump is right for your home. Not all HVAC companies offer heat pumps, so be sure you are working with someone who has experience in the various types and installation. Pick a location that will shield the unit from high winds, which can cause defrosting issues.
And don't forget the maintenance.
“Like any other heating and cooling system," Hicks said, "heat pumps require regular maintenance to run efficiently. Make sure you change your filters regularly and schedule maintenance checks according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
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