12 Questions About Heat Pumps for New Jersey Homes

heat pump

You’ve probably heard that heat pumps can save a significant amount of money on your monthly heating and cooling costs. If you are considering replacing your existing furnace and air conditioner in your New Jersey home with a heat pump, you may have some questions. For example, you may be wondering how they work in the New Jersey climate, or perhaps how they work in general.

We’ve put together a list of the most commonly asked questions about heat pumps to help you make an informed decision.

What are heat pumps?

Heat pumps provide an alternative way to heat and cool your home. Most homes have both two separate units – a furnace and central air conditioner – to heat and cool your home. Heat pumps, on the other hand are capable of performing both tasks. If you make the switch to a heat pump you will only require a single unit for air conditioning and heating.

Basic heat pumps are comprised of an outdoor unit, which resembles an air conditioner’s condenser and an indoor air handler that circulates air. Under the right conditions, heat pumps are more energy efficient than standard air conditioners and furnaces.

How do heat pumps work?

Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one location to a another. In the summer, the unit removes heat from your home and deposits it outside. In the winter, the heat pump extracts the warmth from the outside air and transfers it into your home. This is very energy efficient because the unit does not create heat on a regular basis. However, some heat pumps will create heat if they have backup heating elements, which are useful for people who live climates that see winter temperatures that drop below freezing.

How can I tell if my home has an air conditioner or heat pump?

When looking at the outdoor compressor/condenser unit, it is almost impossible to tell if it’s a heat pump or central A/C unit, especially if the home has an added furnace instead of a simple air handler. One way to check to see if you have a heat pump or an air conditioner is to simply search the make and model online. If you can’t find it, our HVAC contractors can come and inspect your unit, and tell you whether you have an air conditioner or heat pump.

Is there a temperature where my heat pump becomes ineffective or inefficient?

Heat pumps are extremely effective in moderate climates that do not experience extreme winter temperatures. For climates that do experience winter days that get below freezing, homeowners are advised to purchase a heat pump with heating elements in order to ensure the home stays warm and comfortable. The heating elements activate when the outside temperature drops below 45 degrees. If the outside temperature falls between 25 and 30 degrees, the heat pump may become inefficient and may actually cost more to operate than a standard gas or electric furnace.

NJ House in Winter

What size heat pump do I need for my home?

If you decide to get a heat pump installed, the size of your new heat pump depends on the square footage of your home, your geographical climate, the number of exterior doors and windows and the number of individuals living in your home. This is called a load calculation, which is a very precise way of determining the size heat pump your home needs.

Most HVAC contractors will perform load calculations prior to ordering and installing HVAC equipment. However, some contractors will try to use a “rule of thumb” calculation, which is usually 1 ton for every 600 square feet for cooling. When it comes to heating, one ton is estimated to create 12,000 BTUs of heat, according to HomeGuides. Keep in mind when having an HVAC installed that a rule of thumb calculation often leads to installing over-sized equipment that will use more power than necessary and won’t fully circulate the air in your home since it doesn’t run long enough.

What are the different types of heat pumps?

There are three different types of heat pumps. They are air-source, split-ductless and geothermal. Air-source heat pumps are extremely common due to their ease of installation and low installation costs. This type of heat pump extracts heat from the outside air and deposits it into your home in the winter. In the summer it moves hot air from your home, sending it outside.

Split ductless heat pumps do not need air ducts. These types of units consist of a compressor/condenser unit and one or more inside air handlers that are placed inside individual rooms, usually under windows or along exterior walls. In some cases indoor air handlers can be installed inside or near ceilings in order to improve aesthetics.

There are three different types of geothermal heat pumps, including air to water, water to water and direct expansion. These types of heat pumps transfer heat using a series of pipes that circulate water or coolant from your heat pump to either a pond, the air or the ground. This helps maintain a constant year-round temperature in your New Jersey home.

Do I need a backup source of heat when I install a heat pump in my home?

Whether you have a furnace or a heat pump, it’s always a good idea to have a backup source of heat for the winter in event of a power failure or a problem with your heat pump. This can be something like a fireplace or wood-burning stove. For the northeast region, heat pumps need to be installed with heating elements inside it that activate when the outside temperatures plunge below freezing. If you are uncertain as to which heat pump features you need, our HVAC contractors can help you decide.

What are SEER and HSPF ratings and how do they affect the efficiency of my heat pump?

SEER is an acronym, and it means Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. SEER ratings are typically located on yellow Energy Guide labels, and it designates the energy efficiency of a particular appliance, including heat pumps. The higher SEER ratings indicate better energy efficiency than lower SEER ratings.

However, when purchasing a heat pump, it is important to also look at the HSPF rating. HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, which is considered more important that your heat pump’s SEER rating. Like SEER ratings, the higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient the heat pump. In general, homeowners should look for heat pumps with HSPF ratings of 5 or higher.

Can I replace my existing furnace and air conditioner with a heat pump?

Yes, you can replace your existing air conditioner and furnace with a heat pump. Heat pumps, especially air-source heat pumps, require about the same amount of space as a traditional furnace and air conditioner, which means they’ll fit into the same spaces. Plus, they can use your existing air ducts to send warm and cool air throughout your home. If you are looking to save money on your heating and cooling costs, replacing your existing HVAC system with a heat pump may be the right choice.

Do you really save money with a heat pump?

Heat pumps can help you save up to 50% on your energy bills when compared to conventional heating and cooling methods, according to Energy.gov. Homeowners can also choose to purchase and install heat pumps with multi-speed compressors and multi-speed fans and motors, which can help better control airflow and further reduce energy bills.

However, heat pumps can become inefficient when temperatures are below freezing. This is because the outdoor air does not contain enough heat to warm the air of your home. When this happens, the heat pump activates its electric, gas or oil-fired heating elements, which help warm the air so that your home is comfortable even on extremely cold days. When the heating elements are on, your heat pump will be operating as if it were a normal furnace.

What are the costs associated with having a heat pump installed in my home?

The installation costs for heat pumps in New Jersey homes vary according to the size and type of the heat pump. According to Home Advisor, the average cost of a heat pump installation ranges from $4,000 to $7,000 with the high end approaching $10,000. As a general rule, air-source heat pumps are the least expensive type of heat pump to install, while geothermal heat pumps are the most expensive to install. This is because they require yard excavation in order to install the geothermal pipes. Other factors that can affect heat pump installation costs include additional materials and supplies and any special equipment.

Are there any tax rebates or credits available for the installation of a heat pump?

According to Energy Star, there may be federal tax credits available for the purchase and installation of a geothermal heat pump that is Energy Star rated and meets the requirements for the program. Energy Star rated heat pumps are typically 45% more energy-efficient than other types of heating equipment. Types of geothermal heat pumps that qualify for the program include water to air, water to water and direct expansion, which is a ground-source heat pump.

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