Heat Pump Systems Buying Guide
Heat pumps can address all of your heating and cooling needs by reversing an air conditioner's cooling process to provide heat
Looking for an alternative to the split-system air conditioner/furnace setup? A heat pump can be a great choice for you if you are looking to either cutback on your natural gas usage, or get all of your heating and cooling needs addressed by electric power (as opposed to electric and natural gas). It is important to be aware of all of your system options when you start your search for the right central cooling system. Heat pumps run off of electricity and come in a range of efficiencies – from 14 SEER, 8.0 HSPF all the way up to 22 SEER, 10 HSPF. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking to buy a heat pump for your home:
Is a heat pump right for you?
Maybe you haven’t heard of a heat pump before? Although a central air conditioner paired with a gas furnace is the most common method of HVAC, more homeowners should explore the benefits that come with choosing a heat pump. Because heat pumps are able to switch over to heating mode, they can be a great option for any homeowner looking to cut back on their current natural gas usage. Unlike other electric heating methods, heat pumps transfer heat as opposed to creating original heat. This process does not require as much electricity. Additionally, depending on utility costs in your area, limiting natural gas usage during the spring and fall by running your heat pump instead of your furnace can help you save money on heating bills.
Know your current system
Is your current system divided into an indoor and outdoor component, or are all of your heating and cooling components located in a single outdoor unit? The difference between the two will determine which system you want to go with when you purchase a new one. A split-system heat pump, a heat pump with both an indoor and outdoor component, is the most common type of system setup available. However, for some homeowners it can be tricky to find room for the interior component of a split system. These homeowners most likely have a packaged system. Whether you are looking for a heat pump/air handler combination or a dual-fuel system, there are both packaged and split-system options available. Also, make sure that you properly match your new heat pump by making sure your indoor and outdoor components are compatible with each other – if you have a split system. An improperly matched system may not run at proper performance levels, need a repair or replacement sooner rather than later, and will no longer be covered by our warranty.
Things to Keep in Mind
It may be tempting to skimp on installation costs when purchasing a new unit. After all, heat pumps, like other heating and air conditioning systems, aren’t cheap. However, this can be a critical error when purchasing new HVAC equipment. If your system is improperly installed, you may not be getting expected efficiency levels and your system may not last as long as you originally anticipated. Not only that, but you could end up spending any original savings in costly repairs over the life of the system. If you are looking to save money on your new heat pump, look for the rebates and local utility incentives you may qualify for by switching to a green system.
Correct System Size
Having your system properly sized is one of the most important parts of system selection. It also is not something you have much control over. If a contractor offers you a quote over the phone, this should be a red flag. Manual J load calculations are critical to make sure that your heat pump is properly sized and they can only be done by looking at your home. Many problems can come from having a system that is improperly installed. Units that are too large will heat or cool your home too quickly, resulting in hot and cold spots and never having a home that is properly dehumidified. On the other hand, a heat pump that is too small will always be running – it will never be able to heat or cool your home to the right temperature. This will put a lot of pressure on the compressor over the long run and could result in costly repairs or replacements.
If you live in the South where winters get cool, but not frigid, a heat pump is the ideal system for you. A heat pump, whether split or packaged, can provide exceptional heating and cooling power year round without the addition of an air conditioner or a furnace. Because of its ability to go from cooling mode in the summer, to heating mood in the fall, winter and spring, you can address all of your heating and cooling needs with electricity. You can choose a split system (paired with an air handler) or a packaged unit that contains all critical components in an outdoor unit.
For residents of states with colder climates, it can seem crazy to not have the standard air conditioner/natural gas furnace setup. However, a heat pump can still be the smart choice for homeowners in these areas. Heat pumps paired with gas furnaces, referred to as dual fuel, offer money-saving benefits for areas were temperature variation is common. Because you can set your heat pump to run during parts of spring and fall, as well as summer, you can cut back on your natural gas usage. In many areas, it is more cost-effective to heat your home with electricity opposed to gas. However it can come to a point where heating with electricity is no longer cost effective. When this is the case, you can receive the powerful heating capabilities powered by your natural gas furnace.
HVAC manufacturers that are confident in the quality of their products offer warranties to match. Frigidaire offers an excellent 10-Year Limited All-Parts Warranty on our heat pumps when the unit is registered. However, it is important to keep in mind that although this covers the costs of parts, you may want to invest in a labor warranty. If your heat pump were to require a repair, the costs can be high. Make sure you have all of your bases covered by registering your new system and choosing a contractor that offers a labor protection plan, like the Contractors’ Preferred Protection Plan.
Heat pumps are rated in two ways: SEER and HSPF. SEER, or the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a measure of the units cooling efficiency, while HSPF, the Heating System Performance Factor, is a measurement unique to heat pumps that measures heating efficiency. Similar to other heating and cooling systems, efficiency is going to play a critical part when it comes to system satisfaction and initial installation costs. Frigidaire heat pumps range in efficiency from budget-friendly 13-SEER, 7.7 HSPF systems to the high-efficiency, money-saving 22-SEER, 10 HSPF iQ Drive® heat pump. With a high-efficiency heat pump you are going to spend more money upfront, but you have the potential to save money monthly on your utility bills. However, a minimum-efficiency heat pump can still be a significant upgrade to an old, inefficient system.
Because a heat pump is dual-purpose, it tends to be more expensive than an air conditioner, but you can benefit from the electric heating power it provides during the spring and fall. Similarly, a more efficient air-source heat pump is going to cost more at the beginning, but you can save money over the life of the system through efficient performance. Efficiency will be one of the biggest indicators of system costs. Additional factors that go into heat pump cost are as follows: costs of labor, size, additional system additions, refrigerant and improvements to existing equipment. Although heating and cooling equipment is expensive, remember that it is the most crucial aspect of your overall home comfort.
In 2010, R-22 was named harmful due to the presence of CFCs – an ozone depleting compound. R-410A does not contain these ozone-depleting chemicals, making it the more eco-friendly choice. As the production of R-22 stops and it becomes harder and harder to come by, prices will soar. So it is recommended that you make the switch to an R-410A unit. Just make sure you replace your lineset and indoor coil, if they are R-22 compatible and your new unit is compatible with R-410A.
Because of windows, insulation, construction layout, and more, rooms in your house may vary in temperature. With a zoning system, you can gain greater control over the overall comfort of your home, which may help you save money on your monthly heating and cooling costs. With a zoning system you can divide your home into groups, or ‘zones,’ each controlled by a separate thermostat. This way, the thermostat assigned to a specific zone can read the temperature of that area of your home and tell your heat pump whether or not it has reached the set temperature or still needs heated or conditioned air. This way you are only heating or cooling the rooms that need it.
No one wants to be interrupted by a noisy heat pump that constantly turns on and off. iQ Drive heat pumps reach some of the lowest noise levels in the industry because of their modulation capabilities, compressor sound blanket and swept-wing fan blades. However, if you don’t have the budget for high-efficiency equipment, there are other quality heat pumps that include compressor sound blankets and swept-wing fan blades that help reduce the noise produced by your heating and cooling unit.