Here in Jacksonville, heat pumps are among the most popular residential HVAC systems. In fact, Florida has more homes with heat pumps than all but three other states, with 32% of its homes using them. So, when you buy a home here, there’s a decent chance you’ll be relying on a heat pump to heat and cool your home. However, if you’ve never owned a heat pump, you may not know if your home has one. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to tell the difference between a heat pump and other types of HVAC equipment.
Examine Your HVAC Components
One of the simplest ways to tell if your home has a heat pump is by simply looking at the main components in your HVAC system. The first thing to look at is your HVAC’s indoor unit. If it doesn’t have any natural gas lines running to it, it’s certainly not a gas-powered furnace. However, that doesn’t mean it’s part of a heat pump system. It can be an electric furnace, which are also popular here in Jacksonville.
To find out, you can look at your home’s main electrical panel. Most electric furnaces will have a dedicated 220-volt circuit with a capacity between 60 and 80 amps. By contrast, heat pumps don’t need as much amperage and will likely rely on a circuit of 40 amps or fewer. So, if your HVAC’s indoor unit doesn’t have a corresponding high-amperage circuit, the odds are good that you have a heat pump.
Check Your HVAC Model Number
An even more reliable way to tell if your home has a heat pump is to look up your HVAC’s model number. The easiest place to find your HVAC’s model number is to look at its outdoor unit. Most heat pumps have a panel with their manufacturer’s name as well as their model and serial number somewhere near where the refrigerant lines enter the outdoor unit. If you can’t find the information there, you might also find it on a label affixed to your indoor unit. You can use the information you find to locate the proper manufacturer’s website, where you can look up details about your system.
Check Your System’s Air Output Temperature
If all else fails, you can use the output temperature of your HVAC system while it is operating in heat mode to tell if you have a heat pump. This is possible because most heat pumps have an output temperature that’s significantly lower than a gas or electric furnace.
The trick is to take your measurements on a fairly cold day. A heat pump will generally put out air that’s roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the outside air. So, on a 30-degree day, you can expect the air that’s coming out of your vents to be around 85 degrees. If you have a gas or electric furnace, however, you can expect the air to be between 95 and 140 degrees no matter what the outside temperature is.
The Differences Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace
There are several differences between a heat pump and a gas or electric furnace. The most important among them is that a heat pump doesn’t consume energy to produce heat. On the other hand, gas and electric furnaces do. A gas furnace uses the combustion process to convert the energy found in natural gas into heat. An electric furnace uses electrical resistance to produce heat by passing electricity through a metal heating element.
A heat pump, on the other hand, uses the refrigeration cycle to collect heat energy from the outside air, amplify it, and use it to heat your home. It only uses electricity to run its fans and compressor. This is why the output temperature of a heat pump is always around 55 degrees above the outdoor temperature. It’s because the colder the outside air, the less heat energy there is available for collection and indoor use.
The Advantages of Heat Pumps
One of the reasons it’s so important to figure out if your home has a heat pump is that it comes with a variety of benefits you wouldn’t get from conventional HVAC systems. One of them is that a heat pump can handle your household’s heating and cooling needs in a single unit. With a furnace, you’d need a central air conditioning system to cool your home in the summer.
The most important advantage, however, is efficiency. A heat pump is, hands down, the most efficient type of heating system you can buy. Since it doesn’t consume electricity to generate heat, a heat pump can operate at efficiency levels approaching 400% under the right conditions. For comparison, an electric furnace operates at 100% efficiency, while gas furnaces operate at a maximum of 98.5% efficiency. However, the majority of gas furnaces in operation offer between 80% and 90% efficiency.
Plus, a heat pump is a safer and cleaner option than a gas furnace. It can’t release carbon monoxide into your home, and there’s almost no risk of a heat pump starting a housefire. They’re also great for people with asthma or allergies. This is because their lower operating temperatures mean they tend to run for longer than conventional HVAC systems. Longer run times provide more air circulation and more opportunities for a heat pump’s air filter to trap dust, dirt, and allergens to remove them from the air in your home.
Heat pumps also do a better job of dehumidifying the air in your home than the average air conditioning system. Here in Jacksonville, that’s an attractive selling point, since the average summer humidity here hovers around 80%. High humidity levels like these are enough that homes with conventional air conditioning systems often need to add a dehumidifier to augment their summertime performance. With a heat pump, it’s less likely you’d need one.
If all of the advantages above aren’t enough, heat pumps pair well with rooftop solar power. Here in Jacksonville, an estimated 82.2% of residential rooftops get enough sun exposure to make solar systems viable. And since heat pumps are the most energy-efficient heating and cooling solution, they place the least demand on your rooftop solar system. Together, the two technologies can dramatically decrease your energy costs without sacrificing any comfort.
Jacksonville’s Heat Pump Experts
Whether your Jacksonville home already has a heat pump or you’re considering installing one, J&W Heating and Air can help. We’re a NATE-certified HVAC company that’s been serving the Jacksonville community since 1966. We offer comprehensive HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services. Plus, we offer ductwork services, thermostats, indoor air quality solutions, zone control systems, and home energy audits.
For heat pump installations and service in Jacksonville, call J&W Heating and Air today!