- October 2013
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Whether you’re building a home or considering a system replacement, the kind of heating and cooling equipment you choose will significantly affect your comfort and energy expenditures for many years. You may have heard about some of the benefits heat pump heating and cooling can provide. In fact, today’s heat pumps can deliver home comfort at a fraction of the cost of older, less-efficient systems. But like any other heating or cooling system, a heat pump has its pros and cons. If you’re considering a heat pump, use this guide to find out how they work and decide whether one’s right for your situation.
Heat Pump Basics
A heat pump is a two-in-one system, providing heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. It’s powered by electricity. Typically, a heat pump takes about 20 to 40 minutes to reach a set temperature. Once it’s there, it will maintain that temperature within a one- to two-degree range. A heat pump will cost more, typically, than a furnace, but keep in mind that it serves for both heating and cooling.
Although air-source models are the most frequently chosen type of heat pump, two other types of heat pumps are available.
- Mini-splits are heat pumps that require no ductwork. They are ideal for room additions, and some of today’s units are capable of heating and cooling an entire small home.
- Geothermal heat pumps rely on an underground series of loops to deliver warmth and cooling to a home. Instead of extracting and depositing warmth from the air, they use the earth. These are the most expensive heat pumps on the market, but they also offer the highest cost savings over the long term.
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
Unlike a furnace, a heat pump doesn’t burn fuel to heat and deliver warm air. In essence, it extracts and transfers warm air. In the winter, it extracts warmth from the outside air and moves it inside to heat your home. In the summer, it does the reverse: It transfers the heat from your home to the outside, where it’s released. It does these two functions by moving refrigerant. The refrigerant moves through the evaporator and condenser coils in your air handler and condenser, turning from a liquid to a gas and then back to a liquid again as it absorbs and releases the heat. This is much the same way that an air conditioner works, although in the winter, the process is reversed in a heat pump.
Heat Pump Pros
- As already mentioned, a heat pump both heats and cools. You won’t need a traditional air conditioner.
- Like an air conditioner, a heat pump removes moisture from the air in the summer. This is an important benefit, as summers in this area can get muggy.
- A heat pump can significantly lower your monthly utility costs, especially if your furnace 10 or so years old, or you’ve been using another form of electric heat, such as baseboard heating. Today’s heat pumps have heating seasonal performance factors of 10 and seasonal energy efficiency ratios in the high teens and the 20s.
- You’ll have lower maintenance costs. Heat pumps require only one tune-up annually, and that’s usually done in the spring. If you have a furnace and an air conditioner, each unit needs a tune-up.
- Because no fuel combustion is involved, you won’t have to worry about any carbon monoxide emissions.
Heat pump cons
Although heat pump capabilities have steadily risen over the years, they tend to lose efficiency when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. This is a consideration in regions such as ours, where winters can be harsh. A panel of less-efficient electric resistance coils kicks on when the temperature falls toward freezing. Heat pump technology is continually evolving, but you may still need a furnace backup.
Bryant Heat Pumps
Think a heat pump is ideally suited for your new construction? Or does it seem like an optimal replacement for your present system? Contact Meyer’s. We serve homeowners In Griffith, Munster, Highland, St. John, Schererville and Gary. We can tell you all about heat pumps and make sure yours is installed and maintained the way it should be.