Why Replace Your Air Conditioner with an Efficient Air-source Heat Pump?

Can a heat pump system keep me cool? West Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast are known for their scorching hot and humid summers. The cooling season lasts much of the year, and homeowners are relying on their heating and cooling systems to keep them comfortable indoors. While traditional air conditioning units or ACs have been the go-to solution for a long time, many consumers are looking at air-source heat pumps.  

Heat pumps work like traditional air conditioners by transferring heat from the indoors to the outdoors. One big difference is that they have a reversing valve that makes it possible to transfer the heat outdoors in the summer and the heat indoors in the winter. 

Here are some reasons you should consider investing in a heat pump:

Heat pumps are more energy efficient while heating

Heat pumps are typically more energy-efficient than most traditional central air conditioning systems, especially when operated in heat mode. They rely on electricity to cycle refrigerant which absorbs heat and transfers it indoors or outdoors, depending on the season. 

You can look at the seasonal energy efficiency ratings (SEER2, formerly SEER), energy efficiency rating (EER2, formerly EER)  and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF2, formerly HSPF) to evaluate a system’s energy efficiency. 

You can also pick an air-source heat pump system with an Energy Star rating, which spotlights high-efficiency heat pump systems by all the major manufacturers. Pro Tip: We have seen some new “Energy Star” homes, where the homeowners discovered that while most amenities were energy-efficient, homes did not include an energy-efficient heat pump. The reason this was perplexing is that a home’s HVAC system is a home’s most expensive and energy-intensive appliance. It makes sense to get a good one that will last you a while and sip rather than guzzle energy.

In case you were wondering, split system heat pumps are required to perform at 14.3 SEER2 equivalent to 15.0 SEER for cooling and 7.5 HSPF2 which is equivalent to 8.8 HSPF for heating. Larger numbers indicate higher efficiency. The National Association of Home Builders has helpful charts that you can use to compare efficiency requirements across all types of residential heating and cooling equipment, including heat pumps. You can read more about recent regulations requiring more efficient HVAC equipment in homes across the U.S.

Forced-Air Heat Pumps Reduce a Reliance on Combustible Gasses

In Houston and Fort Bend County, the climate is mild enough that a heat pump may be all you need to heat and cool your home.  This is especially true for high-end, variable-speed heat pump systems.

Homeowners can opt to remove a gas furnace and reduce their reliance on natural gas or propane. Currently, a majority of homes in the Houston area use combustible gasses for heat in the winter.

Some homes may opt for a heat pump in addition to a furnace for extra heating on those coldest of days, but that “hybrid-heat” or “dual-fuel system” is not common. Rex Terry, the founder of Terry’s A/C & Heating and our dad, installed a heat pump and furnace in his home, and he rarely needs the furnace at all. 

Geothermal heat pumps are not as common in our area because of the cost, space, and trenching needed to access water or ground for cooling. Neighborhood associations frown on that sort of thing. 

Air-Source Heat Pumps Come In a Variety of Configurations

The technology for air-source heat pumps (also called forced-air heat pumps) can operate in much cooler climates than before. A heat pump consists of an outdoor heat pump that is matched with an indoor unit (air handler), which can provide some electric heat. Because a heat pump has two main parts, it is still considered a split system. 

Heat pumps look identical to traditional air conditioners. They use the same duct system, so you won’t need to change air distribution systems, wiring or refrigerant lines if you already have them and they are working well. 

Mini-split heat pumps, on the other hand, are another configuration that is popular when you are converting a room to a home office, working in a tight space, or have that one room that never is the right temperature. Ductless mini-splits are operated without the need for ductwork which makes installation even easier in most cases. 

Heat Pumps Are Not As Expensive as in the Past

One of the biggest issues with heat pumps was that they were noticeably more expensive upfront. That expense gap still exists, but it is not as dramatic. Even though heat pumps can be very energy efficient, most people shy away from the initial cost difference. Often, however, a higher-efficiency heat pump can pay for itself over time and be a good return on investment.  

As demand grows for heat pumps, tax credits can also incentivize the purchase of high-efficiency air-source heat pumps for homeowners. Utilities like CenterPoint Energy also offers programs to encourage energy efficiency

Considerations to Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Texans who upgrade their home by replacing their heating and cooling system with a high-efficiency heat pump system can recoup their costs in less than five years in most situations.

Improvements to insulation and fixing drafty windows and doors can also make a difference in comfort and efficiency, which translates into lower utility bills.

Regular maintenance of your heat pump system in the spring and fall is another fail-safe that HVAC professionals recommend. Scheduled maintenance plans like Terry’s A/C & Heating’s Peace of Mind Protection Plan can make it easy to put that critical task on autopilot. 

Is a Heat Pump In Your Future?

Heat pump systems are a great alternative to traditional air conditioning units for West Houston and Fort Bend County homeowners. They are more energy-efficient, eco-friendly, easy to configure, and not as expensive as they used to be.

Contact Rob and Summer Terry at Terry’s A/C & Heating to learn more about the options available and for a custom quote. We serve West Houston, Texas and surrounding Fort Bend County including Richmond, Katy, Fulshear, Sugar Land and points nearby.  

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