Heat pumps are an excellent option for the North Carolina climate as they provide effective cooling in summer and are also the most energy-efficient way to heat a home. Upgrading to a heat pump is a great way to lower your energy bills, but it is still important that you carefully consider your options so that you can choose a unit that best meets your cooling and heating needs while also fitting into your budget. Here, we share some tips on the different factors to consider when choosing a new heat pump.
Have a Load Calculation Performed
The first thing you’ll need to do, when choosing a new heat pump, is to determine what size of unit will work best for your home. The only effective way to know what size of heat pump your home needs is to have a certified technician perform what is known as a Manual J load calculation.
A load calculation allows the technician to determine exactly how many BTUs of cooling and heating you need for the heat pump to work energy efficiently and heat and cool effectively. The total square footage of the home is obviously one of the biggest factors in determining what size of heat pump is needed. The local climate is also a major factor since colder places will require more heating and warmer climates will need more air conditioning. In the Charlotte area, the general recommendation is that you need around 40 to 45 BTUs of heating and cooling for every square foot, and this is typically the number that the technician will use at the baseline for the load calculation.
Once the technician has determined the square footage of your home and has a baseline to work with, they will then need to evaluate your home and add to or subtract from the total BTUs based on a range of other factors. Two of the most important factors are the levels of insulation and air sealing. The cooling and heating requirements will be lower for well-insulated homes since they won’t heat up as much in the summer or cool down as quickly in the winter. If your home is poorly insulated, you’ll need a larger heat pump with a higher BTU output.
Air sealing refers to how well sealed the exterior structure or “envelope” is, i.e. whether there are lots of gaps in the structure where air can flow in and out. Having lots of air leaks is a problem for two different reasons. Leaks will let hot and cold air escape and allow hot air to come inside in the summer and cold air to seep in during the winter. Both of these issues can cause a heat pump to run almost constantly if it isn’t large enough. However, the unit also shouldn’t be too big because it will only run for a few minutes at a time, causing hot spots in the house in summer and cold spots in winter. Either an undersized or oversized unit will also use more energy and generally have a shortened lifespan compared to a correctly sized unit.
The technician will also factor in the location, size and number of exterior doors and windows since these openings are also major contributors to heat loss and heat gain. The number of people that live in the home is also important for determining the cooling requirements as people continually give off quite a bit of heat. After taking all these various factors into account, the technician will then perform the final calculation so that they can accurately determine what size your new heat pump needs to be.
Compare Cost and Energy Efficiency Ratings
Once you know what size of heat pump you need, you can then start comparing the available options. The main factors you should focus on here are cost and energy efficiency ratings. If you have an unlimited budget, you can just go with the most energy-efficient unit you can find. If you have a fixed budget, you’ll want to find the most efficient unit in your price range. When possible, it’s always better to spend a bit more on a higher-efficiency unit. Opting for a more efficient unit will almost always pay off in the long run since the energy savings you’ll get from it will usually more than offset the higher up-front cost.
All heat pumps have two different energy efficiency ratings since they provide both cooling and heating. The cooling efficiency is measured in SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is a ratio of the BTUs of cooling the unit produces to the total watt-hours of electricity it consumes. The heating efficiency is measured in HSPF or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, which expresses how many BTUs of heat the unit produces over one heating season compared to the watt-hours of electricity it uses in the same season.
In January 2023, SEER and HSPF were replaced by SEER2 and HSPF2. All you really need to know is that the higher SEER2 and HSPF2 ratings a heat pump has, the more energy efficient it is and the lower your cooling and heating costs will be.
All new heat pumps installed in North Carolina are legally required to be at least 15 SEER or 14.3 SEER2 and at least 8.8 HSPF or 7.5 HSPF2. To qualify for an ENERGY STAR certification, all heat pumps must be at least 15.2 SEER2 and 7.8 HSPF2.
Understand All Your Options
Another thing you’ll need to decide is whether you need a single-stage, two-stage or variable-speed heat pump. Variable-speed and two-stage units are more expensive, but they also use much less energy because they can run at a lower speed instead of always working at full power. Two-stage units can run at high or 100% speed and also have a medium speed where they run at somewhere between 60% and 70% capacity. Variable-speed units have a huge range of settings and can operate at anywhere from 25% to 100% capacity. In either case, the unit will operate at a lower capacity around 80% of the time so that it uses far less energy.
Variable-speed units can be an especially great choice as they will run almost constantly at lower speeds to keep the temperature throughout the home much more consistent. They also will typically have a longer lifespan as the wear and tear on their components is reduced when running at a lower speed.
Consult Us About Your Heat Pump Installation
If you’re planning on installing a new heat pump in your home, Healthy Home Heating & Air is ready to help. When you schedule an installation consultation, our technicians will calculate the size of heat pump you need and explain the pros and cons of all your options. We carry a wide selection of high-quality, energy-efficient heat pumps from the top brands in the HVAC industry, and we also offer financing for new units on approved credit. Our technicians can handle your heat pump repair and maintenance needs, and we also service, repair and install furnaces, air conditioners and ductless mini-splits.
Give us a call today to schedule any HVAC or plumbing service in Monroe or the Charlotte area.