What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of a Heat Pump?

A big decision for someone building a home is what type of heating system to install. There are a number of heating options available; the most common are furnaces and boilers. The heat pump, another heating method, is popular in the South where temperatures do not often fall below freezing.

Owners must decide on what type of heating system they want in their home.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are often installed in homes to serve both heating and cooling need. They are most popular in regions with hot summers and mild winters. Heat pumps heat and cool by transferring air. To warm a home, heat is brought in from the outside. To cool it, the heat in the house is moved outside. Heat pumps are considered very efficient compared with other heating systems.

Heat Pump Types

One heat pump model is an air-source heat pump. Instead of burning fuel to heat a home, this type of heat pump warms and cools air using electricity. It is an incredibly efficient system, delivering nearly double the energy in heat than the energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A geothermal heat pump works in the same way as an air-source heat pump except that it takes heat from the ground rather than the surrounding air. On extremely cold nights, a geothermal system can create as much as six times the energy in heat that it takes from the ground, according to Energy Department calculations.

Advantages of Heat Pumps

Homeowners with a heat pump system may have more comfortable winters than others. While many people experience dry skin because of a lack of relative humidity in their heated homes, those with heat pumps may notice moister skin. Heat pumps are clean, quiet and odorless. Heat pumps are safer than systems relying on combustion. Heat pumps are powered by electricity and require no combustible materials.

Disadvantages of Heat Pumps

It is expensive to install a heat pump.

Heat pumps have very high startup costs. While a heat pump will probably save money in the long run, the installation costs may prevent many homeowners from choosing one. Secondly, heat pumps have trouble operating in cold areas. Prolonged exposure to subfreezing temperatures will damage the system and prevent it from operating at full efficiency. Many homeowners find that the heat generated by a heat pump created in their home during the winter months feels "cold." However, this problem can usually be fixed by changing the air direction.

Deciding if a Heat Pump is Right for You

When deciding on a heating system, homeowners should take all advantages and disadvantages into account. Those who live in the South are more likely to be better off with heat pumps. Homeowners must also decide if they are willing to invest the initial startup costs.