Choosing the Right Air Conditioning and Heating System | Best Pick Reports

Installing a new heating and air conditioning system is a major project that adds to a home's livability and resale value. Choosing the right system can be difficult. Before making a purchase, homeowners should consider the energy efficiencies and operating characteristics of systems currently on the market.

Things to Look for Before Calling an HVAC Expert

The SEER rating is the primary efficiency rating of both heat pumps and air conditioners. A higher SEER rating indicates higher efficiency and lower power bills. The U.S. Department of Energy requires a minimum SEER rating of 13 on any new residential system manufactured since 2006. As a comparison, a 15-year-old Atlanta air conditioning unit would likely have a SEER rating around six. Replacing the 15-year-old unit with the new system would cut cooling costs by more than half.

Atlanta heating systems include variable-speed gas furnaces, which do not cycle on and off as normal gas furnaces or heat pumps do. Because these furnaces eliminate the noise and unsteady airflow associated with repeated starts and stops, they are less noticeable to occupants. Electric heat pumps combine air conditioning and heating in a single, efficient unit. A heat pump collects heat on the inside of the home and pumps it to the outside. During the winter, the reverse occurs.

Dual fuel heat pumps are identical to electric heat pumps; however, instead of using electric resistance heaters, they burn gas to generate auxiliary heat. When it is very cold and there is not much heat to pump, a gas furnace is more cost effective than an electric resistance heater.

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