pure air in your home

3 Alternative HVAC Systems Worth Considering

by Feride Halma

The typical American home uses central air conditioning alongside a forced-air furnace, although the fuel source for the furnace often varies by region. Likewise, the prevalence of air conditioning systems also tends to be regional, with warmer and more humid areas typically having a much higher percentage of new homes with AC systems.

However, these are far from the only options for heating and cooling a home. While traditional HVAC systems offer numerous advantages, including cost and familiarity, there are alternatives. Whether you're building a new home or looking for a way to upgrade your existing HVAC equipment, here are three alternative options worth considering.

1. Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Ductless mini-splits share many similarities with traditional split-unit central air conditioning systems. These units rely on a refrigerant cycle and feature a separate outdoor condenser. But, unlike a standard central air conditioning system, mini-splits do not use ductwork. Instead, an interior "head" unit functions as a blower and evaporator.

Additionally, most mini-split systems are heat pumps rather than standard air conditioners. This design allows the system to reverse its refrigerant flow, acting as a heater in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer. Since moving heat is more efficient than creating it, ductless mini-splits are often a highly cost-effective way to both heat and cool a home.

2. Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is a form of hydronic heating. If you've ever lived in or owned a home with traditional radiators, then you've already experienced some of the benefits of hydronic heating. While many people view hydronic systems as old-fashioned, radiant heating can produce subjectively more comfortable environments since it heats objects instead of heating the air.

Radiant floor heating works by running hot water pipes underneath your floor, heating it directly, and creating a warm and comfortable environment. Radiant heating is particularly well-suited to bathrooms or kitchens, where it can eliminate the feel of cold tile. Electric radiant floor heating options are also available, although they typically provide less heat and only work as a supplemental heating source.

3. Ground-Source Heat Pumps

The heat pumps used in a typical mini-split system are air-sourced. In other words, they work by scavenging heat from the surrounding air. Surprisingly, an air-sourced heat pump can pull heat energy from the environment even when it's cold outside. However, temperature changes can affect their efficiency, and air-sourced heat pumps are less efficient in very cold or hot weather.

Ground-sourced heat pumps instead circulate their refrigerant underground, taking advantage of the relatively constant temperatures found deeper in the Earth. Although much more expensive to install, these systems are one of the most efficient heating and cooling options available. 

Contact a local HVAC company to learn more.