Evaluating Home Heating Options in North Charleston

Homeowners in North Charleston who are looking for a new or upgraded home heating system usually face two choices: a heat pump or furnace. The following brief introduction to these two systems can help you understand how to choose between them by recognizing the major advantages and disadvantages of each.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps present an extremely efficient source of both heating and cooling for homes in the Charleston area. They use electricity to power processes that capture heat and move it from place to place. In simplest terms, heat pumps remove heat from your home when you need cooling and bring it into your home from an outdoor source when you need heating.

  • Air-source heat pumps consist of an indoor and outdoor unit. These types of heat pumps pull heat from the air around either the indoor or outdoor units, depending on whether heating or cooling is being provided. A refrigerant circulates between the indoor and outdoor units. As the refrigerant changes state from liquid to gas, it captures heat; when it changes back from gas to liquid, it releases heat. This change of state is what allows the heat pump to either heat or cool your home.The major disadvantage of air-source heat pumps is that they lose significant amounts of efficiency and performance capability when the outdoor temperatures fall to around 32 degrees and lower. These types of heat pumps usually include a set of supplemental heating coils that make up for the loss of efficiency, but using these coils for an extended time can substantially increase monthly operating costs.
  • Geothermal heat pumps are an even more cost-effective alternative. They transfer heat using either water or a water/antifreeze solution flowing in a series of pipes, called the loop, connecting the indoor and outdoor components. The outdoor loop pipes are either buried in the ground or submerged in a body of water a depth where the temperature stays the same all year long. This provides a consistent and reliable source for both heat capture and release.Geothermal heat pumps don’t have these efficiency limitations since the source of heat capture and release stays at a consistent temperature throughout the year.


Furnaces are very common sources of home heating in the United States. They’re relatively inexpensive and provide quality heating at a low to moderate cost. Homeowners considering a furnace for home comfort usually have three choices:

  • Oil furnaces generate heat by burning fuel oil, which can be a more expensive type of fuel than gas. It’s usually provided by a local supplier and kept in a large storage tank inside or near your home.
  • Gas furnaces are generally cleaner and more efficient than oil models. Natural gas provides excellent heating for a relatively low cost, but it does carry the disadvantages of creating carbon monoxide (CO) and other harmful gases. It’s usually supplied by a local utility company that provides a constant flow of gas to your home through a hookup to a main gas line.
  • Electric furnaces create heat with powerful heating elements. They produce good levels of clean heating, but they can be more expensive to operate than either gas or oil furnaces.

For expert help choosing between a heat pump or furnace for your home, contact the HVAC experts at Berkeley Heating & Air Conditioning. We have more than 57 years of experience serving the home comfort needs of those in Mount Pleasant, Hanahan, North Charleston, and the surrounding communities.