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Recommendation - Heat Pump or AC?

Manny7 Member Posts: 16
I live in a 1920 built house in New Jersey which has a gas furnace single pipe steam heating system. For AC in summers we have been using window units.

We are going to have a underhead central air system for our first floor and a ductless system for three bedrooms on the second floor and ductless in a finished attic.

My question is for the first floor should we install a heat pump or ac? We were thinking heat pump as it can act as a backup to our steam heating system. From what I read a heat pump may not work when the outdoor temperate is 40 degrees or below.

Any suggestions or recommendations?


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,114
    Price is a consideration, of course -- but since you are going to the trouble of a good bit of duct work anyway, I'd go with the heat pump. Much as I love steam, the heat pump should be less expensive to operate (and greener) until you get down at least to freezing, and possibly below. Depending on the particular heat pump, they can deliver heat at decent efficiencies to well below the 40 F figure you quoted. What you want to avoid is to have the backup resistance elements turn on, as they aren't cheap to run. Some fiddling with thermostats and controls should solve that problem.

    Be sure, however, that all the duct work -- both supply and return -- is properly sized and routed, and that the unit is properly sized. These things can and do work well -- but only when they are properly done!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Manny7
    Manny7 Member Posts: 16
    Thank you for your reply, Jamie. I love steam heat too however once every year or so (in winter of course) the system has failed (25+ year boiler) and with a family a backup heating system could be useful.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,454
    If it keeps failing for the same reason every year, you probably need a better service person.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Manny7
    Manny7 Member Posts: 16
    The system failed for different reasons. The service company is i think very good.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,154
    Manny7 said:

    The system failed for different reasons. The service company is i think very good.

    Every year for 25 years?
    There's only a few components on a gas steam boiler..........
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,428
    I have lived in this house for 36 years and in all that time I have had one service call. I did have the system cleaned every year before heating season.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 14,499
    what @Jamie Hall said. also, make sure the ductwork is properly sealed and insulated to prevent energy loss
  • Manny7
    Manny7 Member Posts: 16
    @ chrisJ - every year for the 4 years we have lived in the house

    @ ebebratt-ed - will do thank you.