Choosing Between HVAC System Types to Fit Your Needs

If you're replacing an aging or broken heating and cooling system or adding HVAC to a brand-new home, choosing between the different HVAC system types can be overwhelming. Which will work best? Which suits your lifestyle and energy usage? Which is the most energy-efficient and releases the fewest emissions?

Let’s break it down. Here’s our guide to the best types of HVAC systems for residential use.

What Is the Best HVAC System for Me?

Choosing your ideal HVAC system comes down to your needs and priorities. Do you need to heat and cool a large home? Are you looking for the most energy-efficient systems? Do you need to work with the ducts already in place (if there are any ducts at all)?

Here is an introduction to some of the most common home HVAC systems used in the Denver area and what you need to know about them before you choose.

The Popular Option: Ducted Central Heating and Cooling Units

Before we get into the various types of HVAC appliances on the market, there are two major system classifications—ducted (usually used with central heating and cooling) and ductless.

Most Denver HVAC systems are ducted. They come in a few different varieties, but there are two main contenders for the best HVAC system for cold climates:

  • Split systems. In split systems, heating and cooling are handled by entirely different units, which usually feed into the same ductwork. You may have heard this referred to as “central” heating and cooling. Your home switches between the AC and the furnace to cool or heat your home. These systems often occupy space inside and outside your home. Most houses in the US have split systems, and they’re one of the less expensive options during installation.
  • Hybrid split systems. Hybrid systems are similar to regular split systems but contain both a gas and an electric heater. This allows your home to switch to gas for quick heating or electricity to conserve energy and reduce emissions. They allow flexibility in how you heat and cool your home but tend to take up more space than standard split systems.

Ditch the Ducts: Ductless HVAC Systems

Some houses, like those with boilers (also popular in Denver), don’t have or use air ducts. Many older homes in the Denver area don’t have ducts, especially if they were built in the early 1900s. Even some new homes are built without ductwork, opting for a ductless HVAC system. You can choose to use a ductless system whether your home has ducts or not.

Ductless mini-split HVAC systems feature individual air handlers (blowers) installed in rooms throughout your home. A mini-split provides heated and cooled air from the same outdoor heat pump. They’re incredibly energy-efficient and allow you to heat and cool different rooms in your home to different temperatures.

Making the Eco-conscious Choice: Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps are an incredibly efficient heating and cooling system; they beat out electric furnaces and are over three times more efficient than natural gas, oil, or propane heaters. They run on electricity, and for Denver-area customers of Xcel Energy, that means that 39% of the electricity used to heat and cool your home will instantly be carbon-free and 80% renewable by 2030.

Many homeowners choose air-source heat pumps because they save energy by relocating heat rather than putting energy into raising or lowering the temperature of air. Heat pumps move warmth from outside into your home, even in frigid Denver winters, and vice versa in the summer. You’ll want a heat pump rated for below-freezing weather, but there are many on the market and more on the way.

Air-exchange heat pumps now come with substantial federal incentives that you may qualify for, and they’re good fits for ducted and non-ducted homes (ductless mini-splits are air-exchange heat pumps).

Maximizing Efficiency: Geothermal Heat Pumps

A geothermal HVAC system uses coils buried in your yard to harness the stable warmth several feet below ground—even in the dead of winter. Four hundred percent efficient geothermal heat pumps heat and cool your home with just the electricity it takes to operate the indoor heat pump unit. They last longer than air-source pumps and require less maintenance. They’re among the most expensive HVAC options due to their upfront installation cost (requiring excavation), though 30 percent tax credits are now available from the federal government.

Weighing the Cost of a New HVAC System

The cost of your new system will depend on what type you choose to have installed. Common systems like central heating and cooling tend to be less expensive, while more versatile or energy-efficient systems often have a higher upfront cost. However, you may be eligible for rebates between $1,500 and $3,500 from Xcel if you install an energy-efficient HVAC system or a heat pump. The federal government offers rebates and tax incentives for installing heat pumps or certain extra-efficient Energy-Star-certified HVAC systems.

The city of Denver also helps make it easy to upgrade your HVAC with free furnace and AC haul away and recycling. The city will recycle the metals and dispose of any Freon cooling systems in an environmentally friendly way.

Choose One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning of Denver for HVAC Installation

The HVAC pros at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning install a range of heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners. We can help you choose the system that will work best for your Denver home, then install it for you. Call us at (303) 622-3401 or book online today.