Unlike air conditioners, our homes can be heated several different ways. The following sources can heat our homes:
Air-to-Air Heat Pump
Geothermal Heat Pump
Electric air handler or fan coil with resistance heat
Some of these heating sources use electricity and some use gas. Therefore, the current utility rates have a lot do with which utility to use when heating a home. For some homeowner’s gas is their only option because of the way their home’s electrical system is set up. On the other hand, there are those who must rely solely on electric heat. Depending on the situation, a case can be made for all four heating sources.
Most St. Louis homeowners own a gas furnace. Gas furnaces come in a variety of efficiencies and styles. New gas furnace efficiency ranges from as low as 80% to as high as 97%. The higher the efficiency, the lower a homeowner’s heating bills will be. The tradeoff is that a high efficiency furnace is more expensive to purchase. As a result, we recommend that homeowners plan to be in the home for at least five years.
Air-to-Air Heat Pump
An air-to-air heat pump (commonly referred to as a heat pump) is located outside of the house just as an air conditioner would. In fact, an air-to-air heat pump gets installed in place of an air conditioner. It isn’t necessary to have both an air conditioner and heat pump. A heat pump serves as an air conditioner in the summer months and as a heat pump in the winter. A heat pump is simply an air conditioner that can operate backwards. A heat pump can provide heat by running in reverse to create a warm coil for air to blow across; a similar, but reversed, process is seen in our diagram on air conditioning.
Contrary to an air-to-air heat pump, a geothermal heat pump employs water loops located in the ground to produce and transfer heat. Geothermal technology is currently superior to other technology as it uses a consistent 55 degree ground temperature to produce heat vs. the air-to-air that is working with fluctuating, and usually colder, outdoor air temperatures. Geothermal heating and cooling delivers impressively low utility bills. The up-front cost is two-to-three times more expensive than conventional equipment but given enough time, a homeowner will be rewarded for their investment.
Electric Air Handler / Fan Coil
Typically these furnaces are installed in all electric homes. A resistance strip heat package is used. This type of heating can be expensive if it’s used as the primary heat source. Ideally a heat pump would be installed outside, in place of an air conditioner, as a way to generate more affordable heating bills.