Ask any homeowner about one change they would make to their home, and chances are that many would say that they’d like to make it more efficient in terms of heating and cooling. With energy costs increasing every year, maintaining a comfortable temperature is more expensive than ever.

As a result, one of the fastest-growing trends in home heating and cooling is the heat pump. Considered a viable alternative to the oil, gas and electric systems that have dominated for decades, heat pumps move heat from place to another via a compressor that circulates a gas or liquid refrigerant to create heat that its pumped indoors.

To cool, the process is reversed. Although some newer furnaces are very efficient, heat pumps have the potential to be up to 300 percent more efficient, making them a popular choice among homeowners who want to save money and be more environmentally friendly.

But is a heat pump right for your home? Putting aside the expense of installing a unit, which can run into the thousands of dollars, there are some considerable advantages — and a few disadvantages — to using a heat pump for your home heating and cooling.

Pros of a Heat Pump

One of the most significant selling points of a heat pump is its efficiency. If your heat pump is well-maintained, it can produce three times as much heat as the electricity it uses, meaning that you can save a significant amount of money on energy bills. There is no need to spend thousands on oil or gas to fuel your combustion heating system, and most homeowners report decreases in their electricity bills compared to using traditional furnaces and air conditioners.

It’s not just cost savings that contribute to heat pumps’ efficiency though. They are also more environmentally friendly than traditional heating and cooling methods, although not 100 percent carbon neutral due to their use of electricity. Not only do they reduce your consumption of fossil fuels, they also release less carbon dioxide than other heating methods. In addition, if you maintain your heat pump, it can potentially work for up to 50 years.

Keeping your heat pump well-maintained is also important for safety, although generally speaking, they are safer than traditional combustion-based heating systems. Maintenance isn’t difficult either. Most annual maintenance is simple and can be done by the homeowner, with a professional inspection and tune-up by a Baltimore HVAC contractor only necessary every 3-5 years.

Finally, heat pumps are easy to use. Switching between heating and cooling requires the touch of a button; there’s no need to install bulky and noisy room air conditioners in the warmer months or invest in central air conditioning. Heat pumps also help maintain moisture levels in the air, so it doesn’t get too dry or humid. Ultimately, a heat pump can also increase the value of your home, as many home buyers are looking for upgraded heating and cooling systems.

Cons of a Heat Pump

For all the advantages of a heat pump, there are a few drawbacks to consider. For starters, the initial installation cost. Depending on the size and layout of your home, you will need to install multiple heat pumps and either several compressors or one larger one. Because the air compressors are typically installed outdoors, you’ll need to make space for them and could incur some additional costs to create an appropriate space for them. You also need to be cognizant of the potential effects of the elements on the compressors, in particular if you live in a colder climate.

Possible damage to the compressor isn’t the only concern for those in cold climates. Generally speaking, heat pumps lose efficiency when temperatures drop and are not able to warm the home as effectively. Most experts recommend maintaining an auxiliary heat source if you live in an area where temperatures routinely drop below 15 degrees.

Despite these drawbacks, a heat pump can provide an efficient and environmentally friendly source of heating and cooling that saves you money. If you are considering a change to your home’s system or building a new home, it’s worth talking with an HVAC contractor about these devices and how they could work in your home.