Heat pumps are far from new technology, but they're growing in popularity in the United States due to numerous advantages over traditional HVAC systems. A heat pump system uses roughly the same hardware as a standard split air conditioning system but can provide heating and cooling. These systems also offer drastically better efficiency than traditional heating methods.
While many people associate heat pumps with ductless mini-split systems, they're also well-suited to traditional duct-based central HVAC designs. If your home currently uses a central air conditioner, forced air heating, or both, a heat pump may be a good fit for you. However, your ductwork is an extra factor that you might need to consider.
Why Does Duct Sizing Matter?
Ductwork is critical to any HVAC system, including traditional furnaces and air conditioners. These appliances require a specific flow rate through the air handler to provide efficient operation and to keep components reliable. Incorrect sizing will impact your system's ability to keep your home comfortable and can also overwork essential components such as your heat exchanger or compressor.
When you first installed your home's HVAC system, your contractors used a set of sophisticated formulas to calculate your home's heating and cooling load and determine the necessary duct size. In other words, your installers selected your ductwork to work with your home's particular hardware. If you stick to a similarly-sized system, this ductwork will continue to function well.
Duct sizing boils down to CFM or cubic feet per minute per ton, where a ton is equivalent to 12,000 BTUs of heating or cooling. Larger systems require more airflow, and some systems may also have specific airflow speed (measured in FPM or feet per minute) requirements. Inadequate sizing with an air conditioner or heat pump can result in frozen coils and poor performance.
Do Heat Pumps Require Different Ductwork?
Heat pumps don't require specialized ductwork, but you still may need to replace your old ductwork when installing one. Many heat pump manufacturers recommend a higher CFM per ton than a traditional air conditioner to achieve maximum efficiency. However, your actual needs will depend on your unique climate and circumstances.
For example, you may be able to find heat pumps that operate well with a range of airflow conditions. While more airflow will achieve higher efficiency, smaller CFM values may offer certain benefits, such as increased dehumidification. If you're replacing a traditional heating and cooling system with a heat pump, you'll want to discuss these issues with your installer.
Regardless of your current ductwork sizing, you should always have a qualified ductwork installer evaluate your system and make recommendations when switching to a heat pump. Your ductwork can greatly impact your new system's performance and efficiency, so considering a replacement may be the best way to get the most bang for your buck with a new heat pump.
Reach out to a company like Elite Clean & Restoration to learn more.