Q:

What should you look for when choosing a heat pump unit?

A:

Quick Answer

Homeowners should determine whether a heat pump is more efficient to run during typical winters than other options. Those with gas lines available, for example, should determine if a heat pump costs more than a furnace or boiler to run.

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Full Answer

Heat pumps offer efficient heating in temperate and cool conditions, but their performance drops considerably the colder it gets. As a result, heat pumps have a balancing point, below which they are unable to compete with gas- and oil-based heating systems. This value changes depending on the price of electricity and fuel.

In some areas, heat pumps may be unable to keep up when the temperature drops below a certain point, forcing the heat pump to enter emergency mode. This mode uses resistance heating similar to older electrical heaters and is far less efficient than standard heat pump operation. If the unit is in this mode for just a few days per year, the cost can be small; if it spends longer periods in this mode, another heating solution may be better.

Another factor to consider is whether cooling is needed. In some regions, the temperature rarely gets high enough to warrant an air conditioner, and some homes can be adequately serviced by a simple wall unit. While heat pumps typically offer efficient cooling, those who need cooling should ensure that the units they consider offer affordable cooling modes.

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