There’s a lot to learn when purchasing a new home. Knowing the best way to heat and cool your living space is one of them! If you’re moving to an area like Georgetown, you will need an adequate temperature control system to keep you comfortable throughout the changing seasons. Terms like “forced air,” “heat pumps,” and “central A/C” are likely to appear in your search for heating and cooling methods. There are different advantages and disadvantages of these systems to consider before choosing one. It’s essential to understand how each system works before making a decision!
Forced-air is a whole-house HVAC system that provides temperature-controlled air, whether for heating or cooling. This type of system uses a robust fan to circulate air within your home, passing it overheating or cooling source and re-distributing the temperature-controlled air. If your home doesn’t already have ductwork in place, it can be expensive to install. However, if ducts are already in place, upgrading these systems can be relatively simple and cost-effective.
Forced Air Pros
- Reliable Heating and Cooling Source: There is typically no need for separate heating and cooling systems with forced air systems. Forced air systems can provide both heating and cooling throughout the entire home in one system. They give you maximum control of your indoor climate, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Clean Air: If filters are consistently changed, your central A/C provides better indoor air quality. Air that moves through the ducts and is pushed back through the vents is filtered. This allows for fewer pollutants and dust to circulate in your home.
Forced Air Cons
- Noise: Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints about a forced-air system is the noise that it brings. The sound comes from air being pushed through the vents as the system’s fan turns. Higher quality forced air systems may muffle noise, but any heating system will have some sound.
- Health Risks: While HVAC filters promote clean air, they can circulate pollutants throughout the home if the system isn’t maintained correctly. These machines should be cleaned and serviced every 1-2 years for optimal health. Ensure you are properly changing out your filters as well.
- Expense: Forced air systems can be expensive. In fact, they are likely to be the most costly mechanical system in the home. But with proper maintenance, they can last for many years.
Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioning is part of a forced-air system and uses a compressor and refrigerant to transfer heat out of your home. These air conditioners on their own will only work to cool the house. Some older homes, with baseboard heating, for example, may only have forced air for cooling. However, most modern homes will have a furnace installed along with the A/C to provide heating and cooling.
When choosing any A/C system, make sure to consider the SEER rating. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating and measures the overall efficiency of the system. The higher the SEER, the more efficient and cost-effective the system is.
In the U.S., new Central AC units are to be a minimum of SEER 13. The SEER of your existing system may be much lower if your home has an older HVAC unit. To get the most benefit when purchasing a new system, always choose one with the highest SEER rating that your budget will allow.
Central Air Conditioning Pros
- Consistent Cooling Year-Round: With this system, you have the most control of the comfort in your home, so you know you can always rely on a constant temperature.
- Efficient: These large systems remove moisture from the air and lower the indoor temperature quickly and efficiently, maximizing comfort.
- It Can Increase the Value of Your Home: According to Money Magazine, a Central A/C unit can increase the value of your home by 10%.
Central Air Conditioning Cons
Higher Utility Bills: Expect to pay higher utility bills with central air conditioning, especially during the summertime! U.S. homeowners pay $29 billion each year to cool their homes. However, you can lower the cost of the bills by choosing systems with the highest SEER and by using programmable thermostats.
Expensive Installation Cost: As mentioned before, if your home doesn’t already have ductwork in place, central A/C can be pricey to install. Pricing also depends on how large the house is. For considerably-sized homes, multiple systems may be necessary.
Heat Pump Systems
Heat pumps are the most efficient type of electric heat. Like A/C systems, they work by moving heat rather than converting it to fuel like a furnace. There are three main types of heat pumps, including air-source, geothermal, and water source. For most homes, air source is the most common, so we will only be discussing those systems here.
Air source heat pumps work by transferring heat using a compressor and refrigerant like an A/C system. They do it in the other direction, moving warmth from the air outside into your home. In fact, heat pumps can double as an A/C system in the summer months! You might wonder how it’s possible to warm your home with cold air from outside.
The technical answer is unfortunately beyond the scope of this article. However, these systems can provide heat even when the outside air is well below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
While you can use heat pumps as A/C, you cannot use A/C for heat pumps. Heat pumps are specially designed to provide both heating and cooling, so be sure to understand the difference before purchasing. Heat pumps can be installed in a forced air configuration like central A/C or with a mini-split system. We will discuss mini-splits in just a bit, but this installation flexibility makes heat pumps a popular choice for homeowners today.
Similar to SEER ratings, heat pumps utilize an HSPF rating. HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. Again, the higher the rating, the better. The U.S. requirement is to have a minimum 7.7 rating. However, it is always best to choose the highest rating your budget allows to save you utility bills. Learn more about navigating HSPF ratings on Consumer Reports.
Heat Pump Pros
- Energy Efficient: As mentioned, heat pumps are the most efficient electrical heating type. These systems are one of the best options if you are looking for an eco-friendly way to heat your home.
- Low Cost to Run: These systems are significantly more economical than other heating types, such as electric baseboards, because of their efficiency.
- Heating and Cooling: Heat pumps, by their nature, can both heat and cool your home.
Heat Pump Cons
- Difficulties in Cold Weather: Heat pump efficiency and capacity reduce as the outside temperature drops. In colder climates, like winters in Georgetown, a secondary heating source is generally required when freezing outside.
As mentioned above, a gas furnace is typically installed with forced air heat pumps. This foundation is called a dual-fuel system. A considerable advantage of this setup is that it provides heat for the coldest nights and provides flexibility when utility prices fluctuate.
When gas is cheaper than electricity, use the furnace. When electricity is more affordable than gas, use the heat pump.
You get to decide when and how to run the system. The setup for this type of system is a bit more complicated. Nevertheless, you can maximize the pump’s flexibility, savings, and efficiency.
Mini-split systems are becoming an increasingly popular option for homeowners because of the ease of installation and low cost of installing forced air systems. These can provide A/C only, or can be both an A/C and a heat pump in one.
Mini Split Pros
- No Ductwork Required: One significant benefit of mini splits is that they don’t require ductwork. They are typically mounted on the wall or ceiling and directly connected to an outside compressor by a refrigerant line.
- Highly Efficient: Mini-splits are highly efficient, with SEER ratings exceeding 30 in some units.
- Cost-Effective: Mini-split units can be installed for less than a whole-house system cost when you factor in the ductwork.
Mini Split Cons
- Unsightly: While manufacturers are constantly refining their products to be as attractive as possible, wall-mount units can be unaesthetic and take up space
- Multiple units may be required: Each room typically requires its own dedicated unit. While some mini-split systems can run several indoor units off a single outdoor unit, you still need indoor units distributed throughout the home.
Whether you are doing research to buy a new home or looking to install a heating or cooling system, there are pros and cons to these different systems. For example, heat pumps are an eco-friendly and efficient option if your home doesn’t have ductwork. In contrast, forced air systems are a better option if you want to control your indoor temperature year-round.
The jargon that comes with being a homeowner can be confusing. But having a better understanding of HVAC systems types can help! Contact Georgetown Property Listings if you have any questions about heating or cooling systems for your home or when looking for properties in the Georgetown, D.C. area!
Do you have a preference for a specific heating or cooling system? Let me know on Instagram!
The content above is brought to you by Georgetown Realtor, Melanie Hayes with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. You can contact her here.