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Heat Pumps

A heat pump is probably the most common type of heating and cooling system for this area of the country.

York Heat Pump

Unlike an AC Unit, Heat Pumps Heat & Cool.

(They look a lot alike so you really won’t be able to give it a quick glance and know the difference. We can’t even do that!) Since the weather is fairly mild around here year-round except for a few days in the winter, it is an efficient way to heat and cool a home in the Mid-Atlantic. It works by using refrigerant to transfer heat from inside your house to the outside during the summer and vice versa in the winter. Even when it’s 35 degrees outside a heat pump is still capable of pulling in the heat it needs to warm your home. But if it gets much colder than that, a backup heat source is needed. This is usually electric strip heat, a very expensive way to heat a home, located inside the unit. (Another option uses gas as the backup heat source. See dual fuel for more information about that kind of system.)

Technically, the heat pump is the outdoor piece of your heating and cooling system and is also called the compressor. Need QuoteIt works with an indoor piece of equipment called the air handler. As the name implies, the air handler moves the air through your ductwork. In order to get the best performance out of a system, manufacturers carefully design these two components to work together. When one piece of the system has outlived its useful life and will cost more to repair than it’s worth, the entire system is replaced.Need a Quote? Click here. It’s so important that they be matched that it’s a requirement of the NC Building Code and is usually a requirement to keep the warranty valid.

How to Compare Heat Pumps

EFFICIENCY

Efficiency

 
Energy Guide LabelEnergy Efficiency LabelEfficiency is primarily defined using two numbers: the SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is a measure of cooling performance; and the HSPF, or Heating Season Performance Factor, which is just what it sounds like – a measure the heating performance. Typical systems range from 13 to 18 SEER and have a HSPF of 7 to 10.
 
What might come as a surprise to you is that in the Catawba Valley area the number of hours that we need heat is actually greater than the number of hours that we need cooling. Here’s a way to look at it from the heat pump’s perspective: assume an indoor temperature of a comfortable 72 degrees. When it’s 92 outside, the heat pump has to remove 20 degrees of heat to make your house comfortable again. When it’s 35 outside, the heat pump has to move 37 degrees of heat inside to get to 72, or almost twice as many degrees. This is why heating efficiencies are technically more important than cooling efficiencies when comparing numbers in our area of the country.
 
Minimum requirements for efficiency are set by the Department of Energy. Don’t forget – something to take into consideration is that if you buy the least efficient equipment available, you are buying the worst efficiency you can purchase by law. Over time, your higher monthly energy costs could easily grow bigger than the upfront cost difference between the two systems. Your HVAC contractor should be able to show you the projected energy savings over the life of the system.

SIZE

Size of the Unit

 
Most people aren’t aware of how important this really is, and it’s not just a cost factor. A system that is too big will turn on and off more often and run for short periods of time because it can heat and cool a small space quickly. This constant cycling on and off is extremely hard on the motors and will cause them to wear out faster. It’s also expensive from a power consumption perspective – the actual act of a system turning on consumes more power than just letting it run. The most efficient equipment takes advantage of this fact and keeps the fan motor running constantly but automatically adjusts the speed to compensate for whatever temperature is needed.
 
The other major problem with a system that is too big is that because it doesn’t stay on very long, in the summer it can’t do it’s other job – remove humidity. This is the perfect recipe for mold, funny smells, and uncomfortable dampness inside your home.
 
No matter how many years of experience an HVAC contractor has, it is not possible to simply look at a house and know what size system it needs. A qualified heating and air conditioning contractor will perform what’s called a “load calculation” for your home, or a survey of your home’s construction including things like the size, how many windows there are and what direction they face, how much insulation the house has, whether there’s a crawlspace, basement or attic, etc. This information is entered into special software that tells the contractor how big the system has to be to meet the heating and cooling needs, or load, of the house. This report is also referred to as a load calc or a Manual J and is required by the N.C. Building Code whenever a unit is replaced or for new construction.

CONTRACTOR

Qualifications of the Contractor

 
This is probably one of the most overlooked items and is probably more important than anything else you need to consider. You are about to replace one of the most expensive pieces of your home and it’s going to be with you for at least the next 10 years if it’s any good. ALL of the air inside your house will be passing through it. It will provide you with warmth and cooling every single day. It will cost you money to run every single day it’s on (a lot of money if it isn’t very efficient or it’s not installed properly.) And it has the ability to harm or even kill you or your family if there’s something wrong with it. With all of that on the line, doesn’t it seem logical that you should take at least a little time to check the qualifications and references of the company you are trusting with this installation?
 
According to the NC State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors, there are four places you should check when you have your list of possible contractors narrowed down to just a couple: the Better Business Bureau, your city or county building inspection department, the Consumer Protection Section of the Department of Justice, and the licensing board itself. For contact information for these agencies, click here.
 
Most people don’t have to replace or add a system more than once or twice in their lives. It’s not something that comes up in conversation everyday so how to go about doing it to get the best system for your house is not common, everyday knowledge. Take advantage of the tools and references that are available to help you with this decision. Your wallet, and maybe even your life, depend on you making an educated choice.

WARRANTY

Warranty

 
Most systems come with a 2, 5 or 10- year parts warranty. Something breaks and you get the replacement part for free. Cool enough. However, what isn’t covered is labor. As a system ages, bigger parts can wear out and repairs become more complicated. It might be a $13 part or a small piece of wire that gives up the ghost. But it’s the three hours of technician time to find the problem and get at that little piece buried in the middle of the unit that’s going to cost you more than the part. Or the $1800 part that’s going to take 2 technicians half a day each to replace. This is what an Extended Warranty is designed to help you with. It will cover parts AND labor usually for up to 10 years. By the time it expires, has efficiency has improved to the point at which it makes sense to consider replacing the system again instead of making the costly repair.
 
If you decide to purchase an extended warranty, be aware that any of the major brands require that your unit be maintained at least annually by a qualified HVAC Contractor. Our Maintenance + Program was designed with this requirement in mind, so if you’re a member of our program – no worries. We’ve got ya covered.
 
So there’s your 10,000 foot view of heat pumps. If you have any questions, need anymore information or are thinking about replacing your old unit, please CONTACT US.