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CHANGING THE CURRENT

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Craig Muccio

About "Ask the Energy Expert"

Craig Muccio ran FPL's Conservation Research & Development Program and crunched the numbers to figure out how you can save by managing your energy use.

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What's the best way to heat a Florida home

By Craig Muccio

Asked on: December 12, 2013 by Dale M., Fort Myers

What’s the best heating system to have for cold snaps: my standard A/C system with heating or should I look into investing in a heat pump?

The best heating system for a Florida home always depends on how chilly it gets where you live and how warm you like to keep your home when it gets cold outside.

A/C systems with heat strips
Most Florida homes, like yours, have a straight cool air conditioner with a built-in heating element for space heating, also known as “heat strips.” These systems are good for keeping your home cool during our hot Florida days and nights, but are less efficient at heating if the weather cools down. In fact, you spend two to three times more whenever you run the heat with your A/C system.

Heat pump systems
Heat pump systems, on the other hand, heat more efficiently, which can help you save money if you live in a colder part of the state or if you run the heat often in the winter. In fact, those who use heat frequently could save up to $75 per year heating with a heat pump system compared to a standard A/C system.

The right option for you
Some areas of the state, like Fort Myers, can have chilly days. So, whether or not a heat pump makes sense for you all comes down to whether you like to use the heat a lot during cold snaps. If so, a heat pump might be worth considering. If you rarely run the heat, you may want to stick with your current A/C unit with heating capabilities.

You might also be interested in: How do I know when it’s time to replace my A/C or heat pump?

 

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Comments [53]

  1. Mark Perenich

    It seems like a heat pump is the way to go if you aren’t demanding too much from it.

  2. Evaporative Cooling Melbourne

    There are new heater style today where it is installed under the floor.

  3. Fred Squillante

    I use the new space heaters because the geniuses who built my house in the mid 80’s put the air vent directly across from the thermostat, so the unit constantly goes on and off.

  4. Jessie

    Why not try using Solar Heater? I have mine and its works well..

  5. jack richards

    the best way on heating for cold snaps?
    I have a ream ac 3ton 208/240v heater 8kw.
    or
    portable heater, Behnghi mod #tr0715l/type klt770715p 120v 60hz 1500w.base board type
    or
    portable heater/Sunbeam stand up model#sqh357
    120v 60hz 1500w.
    I use both room heaters with cold snaps, am I heating the most efficient way, or should I use the heater in my AC? / Thank you/ Jack

  6. leonard salafia

    In your answer to “what is the best way to heat a FL home” you state the heat strips are not as efficient as a heat pump. How do you measure efficiency? The heat strips turn 100% of the input electricity into heat which is circulated throughout the home. How much of the heat pump input electricity is delivered to the home as heat?

  7. Diana Stines

    I also bought an infrared heater and one for my Mother. My Mother is thrilled with it. I have used my infrared heater for years and it is worth the price. I have cathedral ceiling and had to put on the ceiling fan to get the heat to even out. Put my fan on for about a minute. My Mother does not have high ceilings and her home heats up in about 20 minutes. Takes a little longer to heat up an area but I can stand in front of the heater and get the direct hot air.

  8. Ron

    If it was me the next time it was serviced I would just ask the service man.When I had my new unit installed my bill dropped in half. I have the heat pump with a heat strip as back up heat and they work together. I don’t have to change my thermostat. Just ask him to run over the heat setting on the thermostat with you.

  9. jack martin

    I was told that the air conditioners cooling efficiency rating on heat pump units is lower than “heat strip” units.

  10. Larry Scalia

    I live in a condo with underground parking. we have over 50 lights that are on 24/7. What is the best energy efficient lights/ light bulbs we should have to save energy and dollars.

  11. Bruce Mistarz

    Our Florida home is a second home. To what temperature should we set the thermostat for the month or more that we are gone at a time? This would be during the summer or the winter.

    Thanks.

  12. Robert Stambaugh

    Is there a devise that I can install that measures usage of each of my major users of electricity, i.e. hot water heater, A/C, refrigerator. Just those 3 would represent probably 90% of the total usage. Knowing when these users require the most juice during the day or night, I could possibly counter their usage.

  13. Frank Williams

    When the temps get down in the mid 40’s or lower heat pumps don’t work very well. Keep your heat strips for those extra chilly days.

  14. Wilie

    SOLAR The only problem is if you put it on the roof yu have to deal with removing it when it’s time to reroof the roof ????????

  15. Alan Kohlhaas

    Heat pumps are much more efficient than strip heat but heat pumps use strip heat as a back up. The strip heat has to be wired on a separate relay and thermostat so that the strip heat does not come on when the temperature on the heat pump is set back at night and during the day when the house is vacant. This markedly improves the function of a heat pump but it is seldom done even thought the cost is minimal (less than $100).

  16. Bill Musgrave

    What about hydronic heating in which hot water flows through a heat exchanger and getting your heat that way?

  17. Nancy Anken

    During cold snaps and I’m not home(working),should I shut heat off or keep it on all day while I’m at work?

  18. Dan

    When I purchased my new a/c unit last year.It said it was a heat pump? When I opened up the unit to clean it.I noticed that I have a heat strip inside.My thermostate has a normal heat and a emergence heat position.Is that normal heat position the heat pump?And emergence heat the heat strip? Is there any way I can tell if I have a heat pump? My bill has been lower than the old unit.Just wondering. Thank You

  19. William Shelley

    I owned a town house in Delray Beach, FL. 33483, a block from the ocean. For years I heated my unit with eficient incadesent bulbs, which produced 93% heat energy and 7% illumination. (published in a GE paper.) My monthly heating bill never excided my AC monthly bill. The secret is the shade which provides the “stack effort” and efficitingly heat the room convectively. Once the surface temperature stored energy, it did produce radiant energym to the space. In closing, heat does not rise, warm air rises. Radiant heating and cooling are the most efficient means to heat and cool. I have a $10.000.00 bet to back it up. Never had taker. Have a good day.

  20. Paul Byrley

    Re your answer to the heat strip vs heat pump question, I thought your answer was totally inadequate.
    1) The cost of a heat pump vs AC + strip, initially and for maintenance can be significant.

    2) I believe that a high SEER heat pump would be even more cost effective than a high SEER A/C + strip (you could have commented on this).

    2) I have no data (but you do) to compare heating degree days in coastal S. Fl to central FL (like Orlando) or to N. Fl (like Tallahassee).

  21. Shamid mathura

    Running the heat pump may save you 75 per year, but what about the pump to run the water for the heat pump??? It’s good if you love in a condo that have a cooling tower already, but not for a single home! It may cost you about on the low end 80 per year the run the extra pump for your heat pump!!

  22. Vickie

    Are the ductless heating and air conditioning units energy efficient?

  23. Jerry Edelman

    Here’s the question:
    We are in the market to purchased a new central air condition for our mainpart of the house; currently, we have two zone air conditioning. This is for the main part of the house.
    I know a 16 sear is good for saving money; we’re not interested in bells and whistles; just cooling, and heating but best efficient.
    Now what we’d like you to recommoned is a supplier that is realiable, good priced in the area of LakeWorth — zip code 33467 — also, what rebates are affoded FPL customers.
    Thanks for youir support.

  24. Mousey

    I still think that heat strips are more economical because you are using coils like in a toaster to make heat whereas a heat pump is taking 25* air & trying to make 70* air.

  25. kirby johnson

    What you fail to mention is that a “straight cool” air conditioner is typically a little more efficient than a heat pump. So if you seldom need heat, the heat strip and straight cool will cost less to operate overall. Additionally heat pump system efficiency plummets when the outside air goes below about around 40 degrees. My experience is that I usually do not even need to turn on the heat until it is in the low 40s or 30s. Hence I would only use a heat pump when it is operating far less efficiently, again giving the edge to the heat strip.

  26. D. Holmes

    The answer really depends on the weather and actual home heating/cooling load. Colder weather in winter, up to a point, and a well insulated home make heat pumps a very good choice. I moved from Ohio (was in heating and cooling for 14 years) and had a dual fuel system (natural gas furnace with a heat pump) and it was the most efficient heating and cooling system for Ohio. Here in SW Florida I am still on the fence about whether to replace my AC/heat strip system with a heat pump when the time comes

    Heat pump systems will cost more, are more complex (condensing unit has a reversing valve and an accumulator, thermostat is atypical and don’t forget the defrost cycle). Ss Rick Coyne says, they have more parts to fail.

    Today’s heat pumps will work fine below 40 degrees, in fact to around 30 degrees, generally. High end heat pumps with variable speed compressors can achieve a 20 SEER and over 12 HSPF ratings and will still be efficient down to below 20 degrees, even for long periods

    Geothermal (water to air, as Ken Wolff alludes to) heat pumps can be a bit more efficient but they add even more complexity and a lot more cost. Open loop systems, as Ken mentions, can be tricky because of water (in or out) restrictions, but are the most efficient and closed loop systems (heat/cold transfer liquid in a sealed loop system) eliminates the water issues but are a little less efficient than open loop systems.

    For Linda Rafferty, if your heat pump/thermostat system is properly installed and set up you should not have to manually switch to emergency heat, as most newer heat pump systems will automatically make the switch when necessary (or when defrosting the condensing unit coil). Typically the only time you would need to manually switch your thermostat to emergency heat would be if the condensing (outside) unit fails to come on or runs continually and produces no heat to your home.

    As you can see from the other comments some people love heat pumps and others not so much. Up north some folks didn’t’ like heat pumps because the air blowing out of the registers wasn’t very warm (about 100 degrees) compared to gas heat (about 125 degrees).

    There are enough variables to make it a difficult question to answer especially here in SW Florida.

  27. Glenn

    When our old A/C with a heat strip had a major part failure about 5 years ago, I asked about replacing replacing it with a heat pump.

    The new unit cost almost $4,000 installed. We have saved on average about $50 per month, so the savings have more than paid for it.

    As some have mentioned below, heat pumps don’t work so well below 40 degrees. Rather than try and heat the whole house, we use a couple of efficient space heaters (one for $35 and one for $45) in the rooms we use (the use of the space heaters is included in the above savings).

  28. GEORGE POWELL

    WE JUST REPLACED 4 WINDOWS 25 TO 30 YEAR OLD WITH PELLA,THERMASTAR WITH ARGON GAS.

    IS THEIR ANY PROGRAM FOR CREDIT, FOR THE NEW WINDOWS

    THANKS, GEO.

  29. Al

    i have read all the comments posted the pros and cons of the use of a heat pump. I have over 45 years of experience in the heating and a/c. I sold more heat pumps in the Chicago area than any other contractor although its not documented.To start out do you want to be comfortable.A heat pump has a three to one ratio. In Florida a heat pump can save you money and still have comfort.First get a good heat pump preferably a variable speed two stage heat pump.You will also have a back up electric strip heater two stage if possible. The heat pump will heat your home,your strip heater will operate as a backup. Example thermostat is set at 75 the temperature in the house is 70 the heat pump runs with your strip heater together as the temperature rises the strip heater shuts off the heat pump carry the load. This is the initial operation once the temperature has been satisfy the heat pump will carry the load without the strip heater.The strip heater also ask as emergence heat in the event the heat pump fails.

  30. Mike Ingenito

    so tell me,what’s more energy efficiant A hot water heater, or Tankless water heater?

  31. Brandon

    The outdoor temperature for a heat pump is key. COP for resistive heating is always 1 but your heating capacity doesn’t change with temperature. Heat pumps are more efficient, COP above 2, but when it gets below a certain temperature, where your outdoor coil starts to freeze, heat pumps are useless. I’m not a HVAC distributor but I believe Florida doesn’t benefit from a heat pump as much as other states.

  32. marty metzger

    So how much do I spend on a heat pump installation to save a whooping $75 / year

  33. John

    “What’s the best way to heat a Florida home”
    A little info on what exactly a heat strip and a hear pump are, would have been helpful for this reply.

  34. Norman

    I live in north Florida. I have a heat pump downstairs and a water cooled heat pump upstairs.
    The water cooled unit produces an incredible amount of heat in the winter maybe 3 times as much as the air cooled one as the well water is 72 degrees.
    You need a shallow well and of course the pump uses electricity. This would not be economic further south.

  35. MATH

    You are so right! I HATE the heat pump in the winter time, you might as well turn on the fans, because if it is really cold that’s what you get. If we ever change again we are going with gas heat!

  36. Drew Morris

    My heat pump stops heating when the temperature gets close to freezing.

  37. Ray Carpenter

    I would think that since you are running the compressor twice the amount of time using it for cooling and heating with a heat pump, you are taxing that unit too much so that you will have to replace it at a cost much more than you would save if you used the heating strips.

  38. Robert Linehan

    Is a heat pump as efficient at cooling as a similiar size and efficiency standard air conditioner? Thanks.

  39. Robert Hall

    Why dont you post the vast improvement in energy savings that can be attained by replacing older standard pool pumps with a new variable speed pump?
    I opted to replace a srandard pump $250 with a variable speed at $830 and now that is in use I will get back my 830 investment in about 30 months!

  40. Craig

    I recently went through this analysis in replacing a central air conditioning system for a home in West Palm Beach. I found that the heat pump systems had a lower SEER rating than the more common strip systems. Thus, I would have to give up efficiency in air conditioning to use heat pump heating over strip heating. Given that we have only three or four heating days a year here, I elected not to give up the higher SEER rating to have greater heating efficiency for those three or four days.

  41. Tracy

    We had a heat pump installed a couple of years ago. It was the best decision we ever made. I live in Martin County, so it can get down in the 40s every winter. The year we put in the heat pump It was 28 degrees in January. We installed it at the end of December. Our bill for the last monthon heat strips was $289, for January it was $89. My bills in the winter were always higher when heat was required, than they were in the summer using A/C. The $200 difference was so drastic that my late husband thought it was a mistake. My bills are consistently between $50 and $70 a month in the winter. I am thrilled with my heat pump.

  42. mat

    Are room airconditioners more efficient than central?

    Mat
    Thanks

  43. Paul

    I live in Indian River County and here and I would say everyone in penisular Florida can benefit from a heat pump. When I replaced om old standard A/C system I went “for a few dollars more” for the heat pump and love it. The heat strips give you a blast of hot air then turn off. The pump gives you moderately hot air over a longer time and is much more comfortable and is less expensive to operate. It is a no-brainer.

  44. paul yorke

    Before you buy a heat pump google ‘stinky socks syndrome’, it might change your mine. I wish I knew about it.

  45. John Miller

    For years I talked to my customer – Florida Heat
    Pump (FHP) (owned by BASF). They are the second largest
    Heat Pump manufacturer in the USA. Their engineers
    said their Heat Pumps worked great in areas where
    there was clean water. Most of Florida has water
    that is too clogged with organic matter for
    their Heat Pumps. This well water is full of decaying vegetation. The vegetation matter clogs
    the wells and the Heat Pumps themselves. Florida
    Heat Pump is located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.and
    does a booming business. Heat Pumps are mainly
    used for cooling. But, they are a heat exchanger.
    So, some of their energy can be used for “heating”.
    The engineers solution was – move to a clean water area – dig a deep well – and eventually
    pay for the Heat Pump with engergy the system
    creates. They did a big business with Military
    Bases in Texas. South Florida households are
    not recommended customers for Fl. Heat Pump.
    Cheers

  46. mike blasdell

    I live in palm beach county on singer island. what would be best to heat my pool the few months out of the year for occasional use… electric heat pump or natural gas (I do have a service line that could be tapped at the street)

    thanks in advance for any tips/info/etc…

  47. Ken Wolff

    Referencing heat pumps. There are two different types of heat pumps; air to air and water to air. If I remember correctly the water to air was a more affiant but more restrictions on the water and putting it back ie dry well. Comment?

  48. David

    Why doesn’t FPL have lower rates for charging electric car batteries ?

  49. Linda Rafferty

    We just replaced our unit with a heat pump and it gave great savings during the summer. Now that we are in the colder period, we are not sure when it would be necessary to switch to “emergency heat”. So far, the outside temp was as low as 38, and we did fine with the heat pump with the temp set at 78. Once and a while, the outside temp will go below 32, do we need to consider swithing to “emergency heat” then? Thank you. (we are in Venice year round and the home is reasonably well insulated….the new unit is a Rheem 3 ton, 16 seer with 5 kw heat strip)

  50. Jack Davis

    Great article! And timely too. Our heatpump here in SRQ went out two years ago and we replaced it with a simpler and cheaper cental AC system with a strip heater which we only use two or three times a year at most. Yesterday I converted a failing heatpump with a sticky crossover valve to a AC unit alone by installaion of a thermostat for a non-heat pump system.
    I moved to Fl. ten years ago from northern Va. where heat pumps made some sense. They don’t make much sense here in SW Florida if one is a little flexible and puts on a sweater when it gets a little bit chilly inside.

  51. sandyfl13

    I have the standard AC unit with heat strip, and it really is expensive to run. I purchased a 1500W energy efficient infrared quartz heater and I love it for the one or two day cold snaps. The unit is on wheels, so I run it at 70 degrees in the living/dining area during the day, and move it to the sleeping area at night. It has an ecomony mode, so it cycles on as needed. These units are inexpensive (around $100),safe, and efficient. If I needed to keep both living and sleeping areas warm at the same time, I would gladly purchase a second unit.

  52. Jerome

    Heat pumps don’t work very well after the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Heat pumps are like tankless water heaters they sound good, but never work to where they save you any money.

  53. Rick Coyne

    I have worked as a refrigeration repair person for over 30 years.
    I would like to ask one question I never hear any one talk about.
    I have houses in Sarasota/Bradenton area and I always just guy straight cooling a/c unit.
    I know there SEER rating and EER rating for a/c and heat pumps.
    True a heat pump is a cheaper source or heat but most often the SEER rating is lower on those units. There are also more parts to fail on a heat pump. So more service calls.
    By the time you would calculate electrical of the heat pump versing the straight a/c is it really cheaper?
    Where I am coming from is you know for sure you are always going to run your a/c. I have had years where the heat pump never runs. In the long run does it cost more electrical power to operate that heat pump because they are less efficient than a straight a/c unit?
    I think south or Tampa a person would be better off to forget the heat pump and get the most efficient a/c you can afford.
    Rick Coyne

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