IN CHARLOTTECharlotte’s Homeowners Guide to Heat Pump Systems

January 1, 2018
Condensers, HVAC, Heating and Air Units Outside in Charlotte NC

When it comes to heating, North Carolina homeowners have many options. Some are better suited for cold climates than others, and it can be tricky determining the best one for your home. If you’re looking for an inexpensive and efficient heating system, you might consider a heat pump.

If you’ve never heard of heat pumps before, and aren’t sure how they work, this Homeowner’s Guide will cover everything you need to know, including heat pump installation. Learn how they work to produce and deliver heat, and what types of heat pump systems are available, to help guide your HVAC installation choice.  We also cover which homes are best suited for a heat pump system and heat pump costs.

What is a Heat Pump System?

Furnaces burn fuel to heat the air around them, which is then circulated through the home. Unlike furnaces and boilers, heat pump systems do not create heat. Instead, they transfer heat from one area to another. Because they do not create heat, these systems use less energy than furnaces and boilers do.

In addition to heating, heat pump systems are also used to cool homes. They move heat out of the home to lower indoor temperatures. Heat pumps are used as a combination heating and cooling system, or in addition to conventional heating and cooling equipment.

A number of factors, from your climate to existing ductwork, will influence whether or not a heat pump system is right for your home.

Air-Source Heat Pump Systems

An air-source heat pump absorbs warmth from outdoor air and transfers it inside your home. Even if it’s cold outside, abundant warmth still exists in outdoor air. By moving heat indoors, the heat pump system causes your interior areas to feel warmer.

To cool your home, air-source heat pumps draw the heat out of your home. By removing the heat, your home feels cooler.

Under optimal conditions, air-source heat pump systems can drop a home’s energy consumption by as much as 40 percent.

Geothermal Heat Pump Systems

Instead of moving heat energy from the air, geothermal heat pump systems use underground heat as an energy source. Sometimes called ground-source heat pump systems, geothermal systems use a ground loop to tap into ambient below-ground heat. This system of fluid-filled piping absorbs below-ground heat and moves it up to the home’s heat pump, where it is then transferred indoors to heat the home.

Geothermal heat pump systems can also be water-source. This means they pull heat energy from a nearby water source with consistent temperatures, such as a lake or pond. The heat transfers into the home.

To cool the home, geothermal systems draw heat from inside and transfer it into the ground or water source. Either the ground or the water, depending on the type of system you have, becomes a heat receptacle for the excess heat in your home.

Geothermal heat pump systems can reduce household energy use by up to 60 percent! They offer excellent humidity control and long service life.

Is a Heat Pump System Right For Me?

A number of factors, from your climate to existing ductwork, will influence whether or not a heat pump system is right for your home. A heat pump system’s cost can rise quickly if your home isn’t a good fit for one, and in certain colder states heat pumps cannot provide the expected efficiency.  You may discover that another type of heating system is a better choice.

Climate

Air-source heat pumps only run efficiently when outdoor temperatures are above freezing. If you live in a region where temperatures drop below 32 degrees, you shouldn’t choose a heat pump as your sole heating source.

In an area where temperatures reach freezing, air-source heat pumps make good primary heating systems. You’ll want to have a backup system installed, such as a gas furnace, which can take over when temperatures reach freezing. Your heating technician can install controls which automatically shut down the heat pump if temperatures reach and drop below freezing. The controls will call for the furnace to come on, efficiently heating the home in these conditions.

Geothermal heat pump systems are another alternative in areas with freezing winters. Despite freezing air, the temperatures below ground remain constant around 55 degrees. This is more than enough heat to warm your home as desired.

In areas with mild winters, air-source heat pump systems are a perfect option to provide the heating you need. Depending on the specifics of your climate, you may not need a backup heating system.

Ductwork

If you switch to an air-source or geothermal heat pump from a conventional forced-air heating and cooling system, you will likely be able to reuse your home’s existing ductwork, if it is in good shape. If you do not have ductwork installed in your home, the added expense to install ductwork may make traditional heat pump systems cost-prohibitive.

A ductless mini-split heat pump system allows for heat pump use in homes without ductwork. Individual indoor units mounted on walls or ceilings connect to an outdoor condenser. Homeowners benefit from the savings heat pumps offer, as well as the system’s inherent zoned comfort control.

Natural Gas Lines

If your home isn’t connected to existing natural gas lines, new furnace installation could require installing gas lines.  This can increase the price of a furnace dramatically compared to heat pump costs, and may mean a heat pump is the better option.