struggling to find happy heat pump users, DFW TX

Probably the heat pump vs. standard a/c replacement debate was fairly worn out some time ago in this NG, but the proof in the pudding should always be happy users. In Dallas, Texas where I live I am having trouble finding them. You would think anyone selling an upgrade from standard to a heat pump (my pertinent specs below) would be walking in the door with ten customers to call who had been on heat pumps at least one season. No so with the five estimates I got (3 Trane, 1 Lennox, 1 American Standard dealer). Not one offered references, with only one of those eventually coughing up three in the "eleventh hour." Worse, in checking *his* references, only one was actually a heat pump user, but useless as reference since the installation was only two weeks old. Sorry, but this should not be that difficult an exercise. (OK, so I picked a sorry time of the year when it's a zillion degrees and A/C contractors are covered up here, but I had the same issue on an estimate back in Jan.) Anyway, I'm tempted to conclude from this "reference reluctance" that heat pumps are not a good return on investment for this region of Texas, maybe even inappropriate since cooling is a far bigger factor than heating. The only people I have talked to so far 100% in support of HPs are the people who sell them! Something is not right. If you are a sold-on-heat-pump user in *our* area (DFW) or, if you have had a recent HP installation you regret, I would like to hear from you, either way.
Mike (just-trying-to-understand) in Dallas
-existing setup, environment: -all-electric home (no gas available) -1600 square feet (includes a loft) -day-nite (step child of Carrier) 4-ton standard ac -18 years old -using existing ducts -return air surface only 638 square inches (I understand this may be inadequate to get full efficiency from a heat pump) -prefer a cool house in the winter (hardly ever over 65) -prefer a cool house mostly at night in summer (typical Dallas summer nights are a muggy-hot 80+) -inside vents are noisy (& concerned they may be even more so with a heat pump.) -lots of cooking in the kitchen, which is small & heats up very quickly
system we are considering: -Trane 12 Seer Heat Pump 4-ton -Variable Speed Air Handler -Standard Filter (existing closet height won't accomodate 4-inch perfect fit media filter) -$5800 installed (add $766 for 10-year warranty)
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This is Turtle.
1) if your going with the veriable speed blowers do take the $766.00 warrenty for you will need it when you have to replace the $900.00 veriable speed blower motor change out. Just like clock work your going to change it out in less than 10 years.
2) If you live in D/FW area and have only electricity to have and no natural gas access go heat pump for sure. The heap pump will save you about 30% over the straight electric heat and No I don't like to have to use heat pumps but they do have their place in this industry. They have shorter lifes and require more repairs down the road because of having more bells and whisles on them.
3) You saying you have 638 sq. inches of return duct surfice for the return air. I have never heard of any 4 ton system of any kind requiring more than 600 sq. inches of return air duct size to be good.
4) The 4 tons of cooling sounds a little big but what was the heat load calculation say?
5) The noise level for gas , heat pump , or straight electric system are all about the same on noise levels at discharge of registers.
6) You say the kitchen area heats up quickly during cooking. The veriable speed blower will take care of this.
7) The 4-inch Media filter. What is that your using here? A 1 inch media filter will be just fine unless your wanting a clean room for putting computor paerts together in it and don't want no air borne particals in the air. A 4 inch will be over kill here for a home unless your name is Howard Hughes and want everything spotless.
8) Heat pump verses a straight electric heat --- It all depend on your electric company as to what you pay for electricity. If you choose a heat pump. Take your elctric bill from last winter and subtract about 10% to 15% from them and you will see your savings for putting in a heat pump and paying more down the road for repairs. Judgement call here.
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Thanks Turtle, this is Mike the Original Poster, my answers to your (very helpful) questions/comments inserted below, my original long post was snipped to save eyestrain.

yes, I wouldn't consider an upgrade this big without buying the warranty, you've confirmed my decision on that

** I hear a lot bout saving 30% on heating bills, only not alot from satisfied HP customers in DFW, besides heating has never been a complaint here, it's the cooling eating my sack lunch

**good, then I won't worry bout that anymore, a technician brought that up so what I need to be worrying bout is selecting a competent tech.

**no one offered a heat load calc, so I can't answer that one

** "bout the same" is OK as long as it doesn't mean the new installation will be any noiser

**good to hear that, won't worry bout that either, sounds like the only way to go with a HP is to include the VSAH, however I had one tech leave it out of the estimate in favor of the Media Filter

**I thought the 1-inch was simply a pleated filter (trane estimate), not media, my terminology suffers here because of innaccurate info from the techs I've endured so far
unless your wanting a clean room for putting

**well, I do suffer rather severe allergies, DFW is the ragweed capital of the world

**I pay a bunch, I will be glad to swap providers with you
If you choose a heat

** I thought it was 30%, but I'd be happy with 15% too

**with a 10-yr warranty, why would I be concerned over repairs, are the newer machines getting less reliable? also, what brand do you reccommend? I'm hearing from users the Tranes may be overrated, I am adding Carrier to my list of considerations, thanks for your quick answers to my post, feel much better now about going HP eventhough what I really need is to hear what you're telling me from *users.*
Judgement call here.

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