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Heat Pump Or Furnace - What Should I Choose For My Atlanta Home?

Posted by Martin Archacki on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 at 1:05pm.

Are you confused about whether to purchase an Atlanta home for sale with a Heat Pump or an A/C System? Home inspector Steven Sheldon has the answer!

atlanta homes for sale heat pumpWhen inspecting Atlanta homes for sale, I am often asked by the prospective buyer to elaborate on the differences between a heat pump and a straight A/C unit and which type of system is best. The answer is really one of personal preference. Once you understand the nature of each type of system, you can make an informed decision on which works best for you.

First, A/C units and heat pumps look very similar. Unlike a straight A/C system which only provides cool air in the hot summer months, a heat pump is designed as both an air conditioner in the summer and a heat source in the winter. Sounds good, right? One system to provide both heating and cooling. Its like getting two pieces of equipment for the price of one.

Rather than needing a conventional furnace attached to the outdoor condensing unit, a heat pump uses a piece of equipment referred to as an air handler. The air handler is located inside your Atlanta home and its purpose is to circulate the heat generated from the heat pump throughout the duct-work of the home. In the summer, it has the same function which is to circulate cool air throughout the home. The air handler is really nothing more than a glorified blower, with the heat pump doing most of the work. As a result, the temperature output of a heat pump is somewhat less than that of a furnace. It should be noted, however, that the newer generation of heat pumps are actually more efficient than a furnace at temperatures between 35 and 65 degrees. Below 35 degrees, a gas furnace is more efficient and less costly to operate. Because the heat pump is working all year round, its life expectancy is around 10 years, while a straight A/C unit may last 15 years or more. So given the more limited lifespan, why would you want a heat pump?

For starters, a heat pump may be your only option if gas utility lines have not been run to your neighborhood. Heat pumps are also very clean as they do not emit the toxic gases associated with the combustion process produced by gas burning furnaces. And while heat pumps require basic maintenance for peak performance, they do not require the safety maintenance considerations of their furnace counterparts. Natural gas and electric furnaces are both common options in modern homes, though both pose the risk of fire, either from the burning natural gas or an electrical arc needed to generate a flame. Carbon monoxide (CO), poses a potential risk, as it is produced when natural gas is burned. A furnace must be vented properly to ensure that CO is not pumped into the air. Excessive CO can displace oxygen and can cause permanent brain damage or death.

In cities like Atlanta where the temperature rarely falls below 20 degrees, having a heat pump in your home is also energy efficient, especially between 35 and 65 degrees. On the other hand, what are the benefits to choosing a conventional gas or electric furnace with a straight A/C system? Conventional gas and electric furnaces are more efficient at producing heat under 35 degrees than a heat pump. This means that depending upon the fluctuation of gas and electric prices, it may be cheaper to operate a conventional system. At exceptionally low outside temperatures, a gas furnace can produce ample heat without the need for supplemental heating equipment which is not the case with the heat pump. Gas furnaces also produce a less dry heat, which improves comfort levels inside the home.

So what do I recommend?

If dry heat causes you discomfort, you want to be able to heat your home to fairly high temperatures, or based on current natural gas rates saving money is your motivation, a conventional furnace is probably your best choice.

If the notion of helping to keep the environment clean and the fewer safety issues associated with a non-combustible system, and getting two pieces of equipment for the price of one appeals to you, a heat pump would be well worth investigating.

Steve Sheldon

Article provided by Steven Sheldon of Probe Home Inspections.



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