Heat Pumps: What You Should Know About Efficiency terms and Components

Published on: August 30, 2012

When there’s a chill in the air, this is typically a sign that it’s the season to start switching to appliances that are designed to make indoors as warm and comfortable as possible. It’s also the season when energy efficiency can become an issue. Residential or commercial buildings that don’t use heat pumps for this task will probably opt for a conventional heater. The heater is one of the most common devices during this time of season, but in light of environmental and economic concerns, heat pumps are becoming more and more of a preferred solution when it comes to energy efficiency.


Heat Pump Basics

Heat pump technology has grown to become a viable solution for indoor climate control for both residential and commercial environments because of its overall functionality and energy efficiency. Heat pumps have actually been around for about 30 years, but have greatly evolved with much improved technology specifically designed to target years of ever-increasing energy costs. Heat pump systems are much more trustworthy and built to function more effectively, while utilizing the least amount of energy.

Though heat pumps are growing in popularity, they still probably aren’t the first term someone will automatically think of as a cooling solution, but a heat pump actually works in the same way an air conditioner work. The heat pump is a temperature control unit that performs both cooling and heating functions. Since air conditioner and heat pump units work in similar ways, heat pump maintenance is essentially the same, which is why most HVAC or air conditioner supply and repair companies offer services for both.


Heating and Cooling Alternatives

Heat pumps don’t come cheap and may not be right for everyone. Those who live in relatively mild climate year round and don’t have a budget of more than $1,000 may be perfectly happy with conventional heaters and coolers that don’t need to be used frequently. These are usually standalone units, units installed in the wall or inside a window. Even though these are limited in functionality and restricted to only select indoor areas, energy efficiency can be improved with things like adequate insulation and conservation.

A heat pump system may be more expensive but comes with many added benefits. They have obvious advantages in practicality and comfort because they’re whole-house cooling and heating systems. They have built-in air filters and can include specialized air purifiers that clean the air of allergens and other harmful toxins. Installing a self-regulated thermostat that can be programmed to function only when needed will further enhance the whole-house concept and greatly keep annual energy expenses under control.


Heat Pump Maintenance

Of course, many people take their cooling and heating systems for granted. They expect their units to keep them cool during the summer and warm during the winter, and only really think about maintenance when their devices aren’t functioning properly or when they break down entirely. Heat pump systems must be maintained on a routine basis in order to keep them in pristine condition. Regular maintenance will ensure that these units not only operate at peak optimal levels year round, but keep energy costs reduced on a consistent basis. Routine maintenance performed by the owner should consist of the following:

• Check the condition of the filter
• Replace the filter when necessary
• Inspect and clean the fan
• Clean the drain, condensate pan and trap
• Make sure branches, leaves and other debris is clear of the outdoor condenser unit
• Inspect the registers
• Clean the registers

It’s important to follow the manufacturer manual as closely as possible, and the power should always remain off before and during maintenance.


Professional Inspection

A HVAC professional should also do a routine inspection at least once a year. A service professional will inspect the duct system. It’s critical that outdoor airborne particles are prevented from entering indoors through the duck system or that toxic elements like carbon monoxide are not being backtracked through the system. The service technician will most likely also complete the following steps:

• Check and tighten the belt.
• Recharge the system.
• Fix leaks by testing the refrigerant before recharging.
• Inspect and clean all electrical connections and components.
• Inspect the thermostat for accurate functionality.
• Lubricate the motor and terminals.
• Verify proper airflow and air pressure with professional measurement techniques.


Heat pump systems can sometimes be technical and require more knowledge than the average person has, which is why an annual inspection by a professional contractor is as important as an routine professional inspection of your car, and a must if the unit in any way malfunctions. Proper monthly do-it-yourself maintenance and an annual professional inspection will ensure that you get the most out of your heat pump unit, both in performance and energy efficiency.