Heating a home in Houston, Texas, is an interesting affair. The Texas weather offers us mild winters in exchange for putting up with brutal summer humidity. But having mild winters doesn’t mean it’s never cold. The Houston area certainly sees its share of cold days, which means we all need a home heating solution to stay comfortable.
But the HVAC options that work wonders in the north are sometimes too much for our mild southern climate. So, how do we choose the right heating system? You’ve got more choices than you may have realized. Each heating system option has pros and cons, so choosing the right one for your Texas home is a matter of understanding.
The Complexities of Texas Heating Options
Why isn’t heating your Texas home as straightforward as heating a home in, say, Maine? The answer is Texas’s mild winters. Even though we Texans experience our share of chilly days, we don’t deal with months of freezing temperatures like our friends up north do (we’re lucky that way!).
But that doesn’t mean we can go without a quality home heating solution. A Texas winter certainly has days and nights when you need heat, but what kind of system is right for a household that’s not going to use it as often as a northern family would? The answer to that question has a lot of components. You’ve got several options when it comes to choosing a system for heating your home. We’ll help you understand them so you can pick the one that works best for your lifestyle.
Furnaces: The Powerhouse of Home Heating
Furnaces, by and large, are designed to offer a powerful amount of heat through a tough winter. You can get gas, oil, or electric furnaces, but natural gas furnaces are the most popular option. The reason many people choose furnaces is because they’re a very reliable way to heat a home, even when the temperature is freezing.
So, what’s the concern for Texas? Well, you don’t always need the power a furnace provides. When the temperature is 55 degrees, you might want a bit of heat to make your home comfortable. A typical furnace only runs on high, so it uses the same amount of energy, whether the temperature is below zero or whether it’s a mild Texas winter day. Your furnace will certainly heat your home very quickly on that 55-degree day, but you don’t really need it to run at full power to do so. It’ll use more fuel than is strictly necessary to do mild heating duty for your house.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a furnace. Many people go the furnace route, even in Texas. If a furnace is the option you want to go for, get one with a two-stage or variable speed motor. When the temperature is mild, the furnace will run on its lower setting, using less energy. On those days when we’re reminded what cold is really like, the furnace will use its high speed to provide you with the heat you need to stay comfortable.
Heat Pumps: Versatile Under Most Circumstances
The heat pump is the home temperature option designed for use in the south. Many southern families prefer heat pumps for a simple reason: they function as both a home heating and cooling system. Because heat pumps operate by performing a heat exchange with the air, they can operate either way: pulling heat from the air or exhausting heat into the air. You only need one system, rather than two (a separate AC and furnace), when you have a heat pump.
Heat pumps also do their most energy-efficient heating in mild weather, so people who live up north wouldn’t get much use out of their heating stage. When the temperature gets too close to freezing, the air doesn’t have enough heat left in it for the heat pump to perform the heat exchange. Then it switches to electricity to add the needed heat to the air.
If you don’t mind that your heat pump will lose efficiency during the coldest days of winter, then a heat pump is all you need. It’s not going to fail to keep you warm. Instead, you’ll see an uptick in energy bills if the heat pump has to rely on extra juice too many times during a month. But that’s a small inconvenience for an otherwise handy system. With a heat pump, we only have to perform maintenance and repairs on one HVAC system, not two, so we’re definitely fans!
Hybrid Heat: A Happy Medium
Whether you choose a furnace or a heat pump, you’ll find pros and cons with each system. Overall, though, they’ll heat your home well, and you’ll be happy with your indoor comfort. But we want to present you with another option: a hybrid heat system. You get a heat pump and a furnace installed, with a smart thermostat presiding over the entire system.
With hybrid heat, the system operates with the heat pump during winter until that point when the heat pump loses efficiency. Then the smart thermostat switches to furnace heat without a hitch. Old hybrid heat systems used to require a manual switch from one to the other; thankfully, smart thermostats have taken over that hassle. Today, some hybrid systems also incorporate variable speed motors and other energy-saving implements. The top Carrier systems, for example, are extremely efficient. Definitely a good choice for the environmentally-conscious homeowners out there.
Hybrid heat is the most efficient option, but it’s also the priciest. You’re buying a heat pump, a furnace, and the smart thermostat technology that ties them together. You’ll need to weigh the upfront costs with the savings you’ll recoup down the line. If you can afford the system, it’s a great heating and cooling solution for your Texas home. If not, you can always start with the heat pump, upgrade to a smart thermostat when you can, and add a furnace down the line if you deem it necessary.
Space Heaters: Use for Supplemental Heat Only
Some of you might be wondering why you can’t just run space heaters during cold days. After all, some homes still use window AC units, right?
You could, but you’d see that high-energy usage reflected on your energy bills. Plus, space heaters can only do one room at a time, so you’d either need one for every room or have to carry the same space heater with you from room to room. As a general rule, space heaters don’t heat a room up as fast as central heat, so you’re going to spend more time being cold. They also don’t maintain the heat in a room as well, either. You’ll spend more time trying to warm the room up than you will enjoy the warmth.
Space heaters are designed to be supplemental heat. Get one for the family member who is always colder than the rest of you. Use one to help you fall asleep if your nighttime winter thermostat setting feels a little chilly to you. Use them when you’re sick to make a nice comfortable atmosphere of warmth and relaxation. We don’t recommend using space heaters as your only heat source, even during a mild Texas winter.
If you need an HVAC system replacement, we’re always happy to explain furnaces, heat pumps, and hybrid systems in more detail. If your current system still has years left in it, keep up with the maintenance, and we’ll let you know when it’s nearing the end of its life. In the meantime, you can save for a new system and research your options so you’re ready to make the switch when it comes time.
Carrier offers an array of systems to fit your needs and budgets. Though they do offer some of the top HVAC technology available for homes, they also have a range of systems that are affordable and offer only the perks and additions you require for your home comfort. Don’t suffer through another Texas winter with the wrong home heating solution installed. Call Davis AC at 888-710-5530 so we can assist you with maintenance, repairs, or new systems.
Image provided by Shutterstock