Heat pumps warm spaces by transferring heat from one spot to another, rather than by generating heat. For this reason, they are an excellent, energy-efficient choice as a heater or air conditioner—if your climate allows it.
Heat pumps are not huge heat producers, so they work best in moderate climates where demands for heat remain relatively low throughout the year. Southern regions of the United States are full of heat pumps, while northern, brutally cold regions utilize heat pumps less often, as they tend to require a supplemental heat source.
If you are considering purchasing a heat pump for your home, your location will impact the effectiveness of it. Below, discover how heat pumps work and where they work best so you can determine if a heat pump is right for you.
How Heat Pumps Work
The ingenuity of heat pumps is that they do not generate heat, they transfer it.
Contrary to the obvious, they actually work by extracting heat from one spot and transferring it to a separate warmer spot. In nature, heat flows to cooler spaces, but heat pumps use a small amount of energy to reverse this process and transfer heat from cooler outside air to warmer inside spaces.
Most heat pumps have reversing valves and optimized heat exchangers so the direction of heat flow can be switched. Changing the direction of heat flow allows these systems to provide both cooling and heating to indoor spaces.
Types of Heat Pumps
There are several types of heat pumps, but the most common (and most affordable) is an air-source heat pump. This type of heat pump pulls heat out the air from one space, and transfers it through refrigerant-filled coils to the air of another space. The process is similar to how air conditioners work.
Absorption heat pumps pull heat from places other than air, like the ground or water. Geothermal heat pumps, a type of absorption heat pump, are more expensive to install (often costing $20,000), but work better in colder climates, and can achieve greater efficiencies as the ground and water maintain a more constant temperature than air.
Heat pumps can also transfer heat to mediums other than air. Many Jacuzzis and pool heaters warm their water through this process.
Benefits of Heat Pumps
Heat pumps offer several advantages over furnaces or other electrical resistance heaters.
It’s easy to make a heat pump reversible with reversing valves, which means it can function as both a heater and an air conditioner. Having one system performing both functions is simple, efficient, and makes HVAC repair and maintenance costs lower.
Heat pumps are extremely energy efficient. According to energy.gov, compared to traditional electric-resistance heating, such as a furnace, heat pumps can decrease an energy bill by 50%.
Appropriate Climates for Heat Pumps
Air-source heat pumps work best in moderate temperatures. An air-source heat pump alone without any supplemental heating devices will not be acceptable anywhere that reaches temperatures below freezing. They simply cannot provide heat at a fast enough pace to keep spaces comfortably warm.
If it’s within the budget or deemed worthwhile in terms of cost savings in the long run, a geothermal heat pump will work better than an air-source heat pump in cooler areas.
About 5 feet below the ground’s surface, the temperature stays around 50 degrees, even when the air drops below freezing, meaning geothermal heat pumps draw from a constant source of heat. But not only are geothermal heat pumps expensive to install, they also require an extensive infrastructure.
Most homes opt for an air-source type of heat pump while taking into consideration that the cooler the air the less efficient they become. If the temperature drops below 20 degrees, the efficiency of an air-source heat pump drops dramatically.
Air-source heat pumps work best at temperatures ranging from 50 degrees or more (achieving up to 300% efficiency). For this reason, heat-pumps dominate in warmer, southern regions of the United States, and are scarce in the colder, northern regions.
Looking to Install a Heat Pump in Your Home? Pro HVAC Service Can Help!
Heat pumps are an excellent, energy-efficient solution to many heating and air conditioning needs, but it’s essential that you live in an area where a heat pump can function properly. If you are interested in the power of heat pumps, Pro HVAC Service knows where heat pumps work best, and will find the perfect heating solution for you.
If you need a new system install, or need your heat pump repaired, call us today at (844) 769-5995 or fill out the form on the right for free quotes on your project. We partner with a nationwide network of contractors who have the knowledge and tools to keep your HVAC system running smoothly.