Identifying the best heat pump for your home.

Residential / Home energy upgrades / Heating and cooling / Heat pumps

Air source heat pumps

The most common type of all heat pumps, air source pumps work by exchanging hot air for cool air—heating your home in the winter and cooling it in the summer.

There are two basic types—packaged and split system—and the layout of your home determines which one is best:

Packaged heat pumps

The packaged heat pump is a self-contained unit that allows the compressor and both heat exchangers to be located outside your home. The unit uses ductwork to heat and cool your entire home, though several types of packaged heat pumps can operate without ductwork.

Split system heat pumps

The split system heat pump is the more common of the two air source choices. In this type the indoor air handling unit and heat exchanger are separate from the compressor and the outdoor exchanger, which allows for more installation options.

Within split system heat pumps, there are two kinds to consider:

The mini-split heat pump

This system is comprised of one outdoor unit and one or more indoor unit.

  • It allows you to heat or cool individual areas of your home by circulating refrigerant to each indoor unit.
  • Each area has its own thermostat.
  • Ductwork is not necessary, but may be installed in some instances.

The triple-function heat pump

  • It warms and cools your home, while also heating your water.
  • By removing heat from your system’s refrigerant and using it to heat water, it essentially provides free water heating during the summer and more efficient use of electricity for heating water during the winter.

Geothermal heat pumps

Geothermal heat pumps use the constant temperature of the earth to warm and cool your home regardless of the highs and lows of outdoor air—making them the most energy efficient option.

Benefits of geothermal heat pumps:

Durability Because they’re indoors and not exposed to the elements, they tend to last longer.
Comfort They heat and cool evenly, and keep the humidity in your home at a consistent level.
Environmental safety They minimize environmental threats posed by the burning of fossil fuels.
Non-allergenic A geothermal system does not require outside air for combustion, keeping your indoor air free of spores and pollen.
Bonus hot water With a geothermal system, your hot water is essentially free in the summer as excess heat is extracted from your home. Year-round, these systems are 30 percent less expensive to operate because they reduce the amount of electricity or gas consumed by your water heater.

Dual-fuel heat pumps

A dual-fuel heat pump is an electric heat pump and a gas furnace all in one—offering you maximum efficiency during typical Southeastern winter weather, and a boost of gas heat when the temperature falls below freezing.

Because there are advantages to both heat pumps and gas furnaces based on the outdoor temperature, a dual-fuel system offers the best of both worlds.

Why it’s worth the splurge.

A dual-fuel unit can cost $600 to $1,000 more than conventional heating and cooling systems, because you’re essentially getting two systems in one. However, you’ll make your money back quickly over the next two to three years in lower heating bills.


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