HVAC in the Southwest: What’s the Best System for My Home?

heat pump or air conditioner

Every region throughout the U.S. has different HVAC needs based on their location and climate. The Southwest region is known as a “hot-dry” region due to its extreme summer months and the desert climate. These states tend to have hot, arid summers with temperate winters, requiring equipment that can handle this type of weather.

Due to the warm climate, homes in the Southwest need efficient cooling and dehumidifying systems as well as an option for light winter heating. While the majority of homes continue to use central cooling and heating systems, heat pumps are also widely used in the Southwest as an ideal solution for the mild winters. The popularity of heat pumps has grown, especially in recent years, as a commonly used cooling and heating technology in the South.

Central Systems

Most households across the U.S., regardless of region, tend to depend on central heating and cooling to regulate interior temperatures. While central furnaces have seen a slight usage decline in recent years due to more heat pump installations (65% to 61% between 2001 and 2015), they continue to dominate the HVAC market across North America.

Central air conditioning commonly uses a split system, which includes both an outdoor and indoor unit that pumps refrigerant through the system. As warm air blows across the indoor evaporator coil, it transfers to the refrigerant stored inside the coil which cools the air. The absorbed heat is taken outside of the home and deposited, while the cool air is distributed throughout the house.

Central heating typically uses a furnace that provides warm air throughout the house using ducts and air vents. The air inside your home blows through a heat exchanger to be warmed, then is transferred through ducts to your home’s interior. The Southwest tends to heavily rely on electricity as a fuel preference due to the warm and dry regional climate. Electrical furnaces usually have a long lifespan and do not require as much maintenance as gas furnaces.

Heat Pumps

With their popularity growing in warm southern areas, heat pumps are a single unit system that provide both heating and cooling. Since a heat pump transfers heat instead of generating it, this type of system is more energy-efficient than a regular furnace or air conditioner and provides more cost savings.

Heat pumps work most effectively in mild, winter climates that do not reach freezing temperatures on a regular basis. Since most homes in the Southwest do not need a heavy-duty furnace for their short, mild winters, a heat pump is an ideal choice that also provides cooling in the hot summer months. A reversal valve allows the system’s refrigerant to change direction and effectively act as both a furnace and air conditioner.

A heat pump acts as a two-way AC unit that can cool the entire house. Using refrigerant, it absorbs heat through an indoor set of coils and releases it through a secondary set of coils outside. This effectively cools the house during the summer months, even during high temperatures.

This method reverses during winter, and the heat pump extracts heat from outside, distributing it throughout the house through forced warm-air delivery systems. It uses electrical energy and refrigerant cooling to make this transfer and heat the home. If the climate does not include extreme temperatures, a heat pump should be enough to keep your home comfortable.

Put Money Back in Your Pocket

Did you know? The federal government offers a variety of tax credits to reduce the capital costs associated with implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency home projects.

If you live in the Southwest, keep track of rebates and incentives available in your area here.

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