Is a Heat Pump Right For Me?

Angi Staff
Written by Angi Staff
Updated March 7, 2011
Heat pump external unit
Different kinds of heat pumps have their own pros and cons. (Photo courtesy of Angi member Richard D. of Oviedo, Florida.)

Learn whether an air-source or geothermal heat pump is the best choice for you.

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What are the differences between air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps? — Angi member Mark Schinman, Stanwood, Wash.

"An air-source heat pump is like an A/C that can go in reverse," says Luke Heiar, co-owner of Harker Heating & Cooling in Madison, Wis. It uses the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, cooling by drawing heat out of a home and warming by condensing and pumping heat from the air into a home.

A ground-source pump - also known as geothermal - uses the same principles, but uses the ground's stable temperatures to heat and cool. "Ground-source pumps, in most applications, are the more efficient of the two," says Chris Wierzbicki of Nutmeg Mechanical Services Inc. in Manchester, Conn.

However, an air-source heat pump is cheaper to install, Heiar says. They're more commonly used in moderate climates since harsh winter temperatures can negate the pump's efficiency.

Richard Henderson, president of M. B. Kiser Heating & Air Conditioning in Dallas, advises adding a gas-fired backup furnace to an air-source system. "It's much more cost effective than electric heat," he says.

Since geothermal pumps require significant excavation, installation costs are higher, but the systems are generally more durable. Heiar estimates installation costs for an air-source heat pump at $4,000 to $10,000. Geothermal can cost from $10,000 to $30,000, but a federal tax credit available until 2016 may offset that by up to 30 percent.

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