PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Has this cold air forced you to turn on the heat? Now, homeowners have a variety of options when it comes to heating and cooling systems.

But if you’re looking to save money, a heat pump might be a good option for you.

In this week’s Angie’s List, 3 On Your Side’s Jim Donovan looks at heat pumps so you can decide if it might be a good choice for you.

Heating and air conditioning account for more than 50 percent of the energy you use to run your home. So, if you’re looking to save money you want to be as efficient as possible.

“A heat pump might be your best way to improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Adding a heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity used for heating by as much as 30 percent,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.

Heat pump prices can vary widely from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on the type of system you buy. Some pull heat right out of the air while others use heat from the ground. But both types use electricity.

“A heat pump is a good energy efficient option because instead of using natural gas to heat your home on the milder days you are using electricity which is more efficient and better for the overall environment,” said heating and cooling contractor, Chris Cunningham.

Like any other heating and cooling system, they require regular maintenance to run efficiently.

“Make sure you change your filters regularly and schedule maintenance checks according to the manufacturer’s recommendation,” said Hicks.

More from Angie:

How does a heat pump work?
• A heat pump uses electricity to move heat rather than generate heat. Because of this, they can provide up to four times the amount of energy they consume.

• It cools by drawing heat out of a home and warms by condensing and pumping heat from the air into a home.

Two types of heat pumps:
• Air source heat pumps: The most common type of heat pump. Draws heat from the outside air. Industry experts say you can reduce the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30 percent if you heat with electricity.

• Geothermal heat pumps: Uses the ground instead of the air to provide heating and cooling.
– Both units typically feature a backup heater or furnace to help if temperatures swing too dramatically.
– Both deliver better efficiency that conventional HVAC systems, but geothermal is more efficient than an air source heat pump. However, geothermal is more expensive to install due to significant excavation required.

• Heat pump costs: Cost is determined by installation and options. An average air source heat pump costs between $5,000 and $10,000. A geothermal system can cost as much as $20,000 to $30,000 or more, but if you stay in your home for a long time you can expect to see a significant return in lower operating costs.

• Tax credits available: Homeowners who add a qualifying air source heat pump or a geothermal heat pump can receive a tax credit through the government’s Energy Star program.

• Hire a contractor with experience: Talk to a reputable HVAC contractor about whether a heat pump is right for your home. Not all HVAC companies offer heat pumps, so be sure you are working with someone who has experience in the various types and installation.

• Location, location, location: Before you install your air source heat pump, pick a location that will shield the unit from high winds, which can cause defrosting issues.

Maintenance required: Like any other heating and cooling system, heat pumps require regular maintenance to run efficiently. Check filters once a month and clean or change as needed. Schedule a professional service check as recommended by the manufacturer.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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