Heat Pumps and SEER Ratings
LESLIE: Alright, now we’ve got Jim calling in from Missouri with a heat pump question. What can we do for you today?JIM: I’m kind of wondering, on the heat pumps, they rate these as a SEER – S-E-E-R.TOM: Yes.JIM: And what kind – how does that relate to efficiency and how long will it take to pay back a 16 SEER compared to a, let’s say, 22 SEER?TOM: Well, that’s a good question. Now, SEER – S-E-E-R – stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio and it’s a measure of how energy efficient the heat pump itself is in the cooling mode, by the way. It doesn’t measure it’s efficiency in the heating mode; it only measures it in the cooling mode. Now, anything over 16 SEER is a pretty efficient unit.LESLIE: Is very efficient.TOM: You know, if you can get one higher than that it’s even more efficient; but the question is, what’s the return on investment.Now, in Missouri, do you have the option to use anything but an electric-fueled heating system?JIM: Yes.TOM: Because …JIM: I’ve got propane gas, too.TOM: OK. Because you’re probably better off, in the winter time, heating with propane and, in the summer time, just using a standard central air conditioning system. Because remember, you get a cold winter, that heat pump is only designed to maintain the temperature in your house for the first two degrees below what your thermostat is set at. If it falls below that, the heat pump stops working and it brings up its backup system which is straight resistance electric heat; the most expensive way to heat your house. So, in a cold climate, it’s harder to get a return on investment on a heat pump. You’re almost better off with a fossil-fueled heating system and a standard, good, efficient cooling system – central air conditioning system.TOM: Look at the cooling systems that will qualify you for the federal energy tax credits – and I don’t have the SEERs on those committed to memory but you want to make sure that the system you buy does qualify because that’ll reduce your cost by up to about $1,500 or 30 percent of the cost of the product.LESLIE: I believe 16 and up qualifies being that we’ve just done central air.TOM: (overlapping voices) Sixteen and up? OK.LESLIE: Would this be used, Jim, as strictly supplemental? I mean, Tom, does that make sense? If you have a fossil-fueled heating source but yet occasionally need an extra boost …TOM: No.LESLIE: Not even?TOM: Nah. Wouldn’t make sense for that.Jim, I would stick with the propane for heat and I would not replace my propane option with a heat pump.JIM: Okey-dokey. Thank you.TOM: You’re welcome, Jim. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.