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How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Published on: March 11, 2013

Have you ever asked the question, “How does a heat pump work?” If so, you’re not alone. Many people are confused about the difference between electric heat pumps and gas furnaces. If you live in a climate with relatively mild winters, an electric heat pump is most often a more economical choice that a gas furnace. We encourage you to contact one of the professional HVAC dealers in our network to discuss your home heating needs. A certified installation technician is the best person to advise you about your home heating options.

How a Heat Pump Works

Heat pumps produce warmth in a residential or commercial building by pulling heat from one location and transferring it to another location. For example, your heat pump can draw in heat from the ground or air of your yard and transfer it indoors to keep you warm and comfortable. The main components of a heat pump include indoor and outdoor coils, a compressor and refrigerant fluid. They cost less to operate because they transfer heat instead of burning fuel to produce heat. Heat pumps continuously cycle warm air. This avoids the frequent starting and stopping that is common with other types of HVAC equipment.

Heat Pumps as Air Conditioners

The biggest selling point of a heat pump is that it also serves as an air conditioner. This means that you don’t have to invest in two separate pieces of equipment. During the warm months of the year, refrigerant changes from liquid to vapor due to the absorption of heat. This results in cool air being released into your home or business. Pumps used for heating are more energy efficient, cost less to maintain and take up less space than the traditional gas furnace and separate air conditioning unit.

Environmental Benefits

Heat pumps transfer heat, while other types of heating equipment must burn fuel to produce it. This results in a fair amount of environmental waste. When you have a heat pump installed, you are doing your part to help reduce the amount of emissions released into the environment.

Additional Benefits

Heat pumps not only provide heating and cooling for residential and commercial applications; they have become quite popular for use on hot tubs, pools and other areas where the temperature needs to be kept artificially warm.

Evaluating Energy Efficiency

Every type of heating and cooling equipment is assigned an energy efficiency rating to help consumers evaluate its potential performance. Heat pumps use a system known as the Heat Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is the rating used when the unit’s cooling capacity is being evaluated. The HSPF of a unit is calculated by measuring its heating output in British Thermal Units (BTU). This total is then divided by the total energy consumption of a dwelling measured in watt-hours. As of 2005, the minimum HSPF for a new unit is 7.7. The highest rating is 10.0.

Considerations for Colder Climates

If you live in a climate where the daytime low regularly drops below 25 degrees, a heat pump may not be the right choice for you. It takes a considerable amount of energy to move air this cold from one location to another. As a result, you could end up paying more to operate a heat pump than you would for a gas furnace. The heat pump works best in climates where the variation in temperatures between seasons is not so extreme. Homeowners in these extremely cold climates who have heat pumps typically have a supplemental heating source for back-up.

Obtain an Estimate

The professional heating and cooling contractors in our network offer free written estimates to help you evaluate your heating choices. Your estimate should include the cost of parts, labor, taxes, transportation and all other costs. This is also an ideal time to ask about any dealer rebates or tax incentives that you may be eligible to receive. The federal government rewards people for installing HVAC equipment that is energy efficient and eco-friendly toward the environment.

Our network of contractors carries a complete line of HVAC equipment from multiple manufacturers for the benefit of our customers. We are available to answer all your questions and concerns regarding heating and cooling.