North Texas’ Climate Makes Heat Pumps
a Viable Energy-Saving Option
The generally warmer North Texas climate is the perfect operating environment for heat pumps and for obtaining greater energy efficiencies in southern residential households.
Heat pumps have an optimal operating ambient temperature of 25 degrees and higher, leading to their high popularity in the southern U.S., and they have the highest energy efficiency among HVAC units and water heaters. Their efficiency is derived from their ability to extract heat from their surrounding environment and converting it to cool or heat.
HVAC Heat Pumps
HVAC systems are typically the single largest sources of electric consumption in a residence. And while they provide a comfortable living environment from a temperature and humidity standpoint, it is important to choose the right combination of indoor and outdoor units to provide optimal performance and efficiency. Choosing an undersized system will cause unnecessary wear and tear on the mechanical components and will be inefficient as it continuously runs to keep up with temperature control settings. On the other hand, an oversized system will cycle on and off too quickly to maintain a constant temperature and cause increased humidity within a home. Having a properly sized system will reduce a home’s electric load as well as properly and efficiently maintain a home’s temperature and humidity.
United recommends having an HVAC contractor provide an AHRI (Air-conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute) certificate for both indoor and outdoor units to quantify their efficiency. The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), should range from 14 to 21. United offers a rebate for any newly installed heat pump system with a 16 SEER or above. Currently, there is not a significant price difference between a 14 SEER (the minimum efficiency that can be sold) and a 16 SEER system. In addition to SEER, the AHRI certificate will also provide a homeowner with an HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor), which states the system’s heating efficiency. Keep in mind that higher SEER and HSPF heat pump ratings translate into higher efficiency and more efficient electrical usage.
United members should be aware heat pumps come in many shapes and sizes, including ductless, or mini-split, systems. These ductless systems can be a great option for smaller, open-concept homes or for those who do not want ductwork in their attic. These heat pumps are smaller in size and only require two small wall penetrations for the refrigerant and condensation lines that connect the indoor and outdoor unit. In addition to the space savings, ductless systems are also considerably cheaper than ducted HVAC heat pump systems. The outdoor unit on some ductless systems can also have the option of being connected to multiple indoor units, allowing for multiple conditioned spaces in your home that are separated by walls or doors.
Variable speed function is a relatively new innovation in residential heat pumps that provides greater efficiency than a standard single-speed heat pump since lower operating speeds in a variable-speed unit allow the same temperature setting to be accomplished at a diminished wattage when compared to the single speed heat pump operating at full speed.
Overall, a heat pump HVAC system (when paired properly) can save homeowners the most money in long-term costs when compared to electrical resistance or propane furnaces.
Despite higher upfront purchase costs, consideration for installing a heat pump should not be overlooked when replacing or installing a new HVAC system.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
A heat pump’s advantages aren’t limited solely to HVAC systems. Heat pump technology has wound its way into water heater design as well, and water heaters are typically the second highest energy-consuming appliance in a home. Water heater heat pumps work identically to their HVAC counterpart, however instead of heating or cooling air, they exclusively heat water. Water heater heat pumps can be thought of as reverse refrigerators.
Instead of producing the heat themselves, they merely transfer heat from surrounding air into the tank and release cooler air back into the surrounding space.
This makes a garage a perfect installation point for a heat pump water heater unless the water heater is confined in a small closet space. The cool air released from a heat pump in an open space can decrease the temperature in the garage by a few degrees year round.
And the transfer of thermal energy makes heat pump water heaters about 2-3 times more efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters. Currently, United is offering a $150 rebate for any member who decides to install a heat pump water heater in their home (please see the 2020 rebate application for more details).
Heat pumps come in numerous sizes and applications, including HVAC systems and water heaters, and their higher energy efficiencies provide long-term electrical use savings—especially during North Texas’ hotter months.
United energy experts advise members to research options when an HVAC system or water heater replacement is being considered, and to contact a United energy advisor to obtain more information about the many resources the cooperative has to help its members make their residences more energy efficient.