When it comes to selecting to right HVAC system for your cooling and heating needs, there are a number of options available. Perhaps none, however, are and versatile than the heat pump.
Despite the misleading name, heat pumps are systems that both heat and cool air.
A basic understanding of what a heat pump does and how it works actually helps to clear up some of the confusion behind its deceptive name.
What Does a Heat Pump Do?
When we think of traditional heating systems, images of electric heaters and fuel-burning furnaces are often the first to come to mind. These systems are able to heat your home because they generate heat on their own.
Rather than generating heat, a heat pump uses the basic principles of heat transfer to transfer heat out of one place and into another.
To understand how a heat pump can cool your home, let’s first look at how it can heat it:
Think of the last time you baked a frozen pizza in the oven. You place the pizza in an oven that is heated to 400˚, and after about 15 minutes, your pizza is warm, cheesy, crispy goodness—and it’s all thanks to heat transfer. Heat transfer states that hot, high energy particles are attracted to cold, low energy particles.
The warm environment of your oven is packed with hot particles that immediately cozy up to the cold particles in your pizza, warming them until your pizza is cooked. If this principle were flipped, and cold was attracted to heat, then the frozen pizza would eventually freeze your oven.
Much like the pizza, a heat pump attracts heat to itself using a liquid called a refrigerant. A refrigerant’s boiling point is generally very low, sometimes even lower than freezing (32˚F), meaning it can absorb heat in pretty cold weather.
Heat pumps take this heated refrigerant, make it more hot using a low energy compressor, and distribute the heat throughout your cold home. Then the refrigerant passes through device that cools it to the right temperature to gather more heat.
In order to cool your home, all the heat pump has to do is reverse this cycle. In cooling mode, the heat pump sucks the heat out of your home, releases it outside, cools the refrigerant to the desired temperature, and distributes this coolness throughout your home.
Energy Efficiency Means Monetary Savings and More
Heat pumps are remarkably simple, yet versatile devices. Because they rely on the principles of heat transfer to cool and warm your home, they require an extraordinarily smaller amount of energy to perform these functions than traditional HVAC units.
The lower energy costs translate to mega-savings on your monthly utility bill, and also significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Heat pumps tackle both the jobs of heating and cooling, so there’s no need to worry about choosing and paying for an air conditioner and heater, which are traditionally separate for one another.
They also do not require any combustion to generate your desired room temperature, which means there’s no carbon monoxide risk.
What Type of Heat Pump Is Best for You?
The are many different types of heat pumps available to residences and commercial settings today, but among the most popular are air-source, multi-split, and absorption heat pumps.
This most popular of all heat pumps, air-source pumps extract heat from the outside of your home and move it inside, and vice versa. Because they extract heat from the outside air, they are not typically as effective in temperatures under freezing.
These air-source based systems are most often used in homes without ducts and enjoy a few additional perks. The outdoor air-source unit connects to several small indoor units, making their positioning flexible and giving you more climate control over different areas of your home.
These systems are similar to air-source units, yet are often powered by a fuel source like natural gas, solar panels, propane, or geothermal-heated water.
Absorption heat pumps are most commonly used in commercial settings, although residential versions are also gaining popularity. Because these pumps run on fuel, they are extremely powerful, making them good candidates for office spaces, and can function in sub-freezing temperatures.
Heat pumps can also be retrofitted to work with an additional heating unit, so if you wanted to continue to use your original furnace or purchase a back-up burner for those extra cold nights, you have the option to do so. There are also a number of additional features that can be added or upgraded to your heat pump to improve its quality and efficiency.
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Within minutes of placing your request, you will receive free and competitive service estimates from multiple contractors to ensure that you are receiving the most affordable pricing option available.