On a cold winter morning, you know the importance of having a reliable heating system. The windows may be icy on the outside, but your family is warm and toasty on the inside, and that’s all that matters.
There are two general ways of heating a home: a furnace or a heat pump. Homeowners are often most familiar with furnaces, where the home appliance uses fuel (natural gas) to generate power. Through ignition, the furnace creates heat and blows it throughout the home using a heavy-duty fan. This is referred to as forced air.
Compare that to a heat pump. Heat pumps work essentially like an AC unit, pumping heated and cooled air in and out of a room. They are known to be energy-efficient alternatives to standard forced-air HVAC equipment. But are heat pumps actually efficient?
Because of the way they work, heat pumps are indeed efficient. This is because a heat pump doesn’t need to generate heat. Instead, it uses electricity to relocate air based on your needs.
How a Heat Pump Works
There are two common types of heat pumps.
- An air-source heat pump transfers heat between indoor and outdoor air and tends to be more popular for residential heating and cooling.
- A ground-source heat pump is also known as a geothermal heat pump. It transfers heat between indoor air and the ground outside. They are typically more expensive to install but have a lower operating cost because of consistency in ground temperature.
A heat pump’s job is not to create heat. Instead, they move heat from one location to another. In the winter, a heat pump absorbs heat energy from the outside and transfers it inside. There is heat energy in the air supply, even when it’s cold outside. In the summer, the opposite is true; it absorbs the heat from the inside and sends it outside, cooling your living space.
A heat pump system consists of two major components: an outside unit and an indoor air handler unit. The outdoor unit uses a coil and a fan. The coil cools when in condenser mode and heats when in evaporator mode. The fan blows across the coil for the heat exchange process. The indoor unit also contains a coil and a fan. The coil cools when in evaporator mode and heats when in condenser mode. The fan blows across the coil and moves air throughout your home.
Efficiency Isn’t Just About the Heat Pump
When investing in new heating and cooling equipment, it’s easy to get stuck comparing the equipment cost, forgetting there are other long-term costs as well.
Equipment and Installation
Many homes are built using a central-forced air heating system. If an air conditioner is in place, it’s tied to the forced-air system. This makes it easy to install a central heat pump system. Central heat pumps can utilize the existing duct system to move the air supply.
Heat pumps are also available in the form of ductless mini-splits if you don’t have ductwork already in your home. Most manufacturers offer both options, and by working with a qualified HVAC contractor, you can set up your home in different zones, creating a comfortable environment for everyone.
Heat pumps are versatile in that they can work with equipment already in place or be set up as a hybrid for incorporating renovations or newer builds where a ductless system might work best. The key here is versatility. With a professional installer, you can custom-build your heating and cooling system to your precise needs, utilizing the power of a heat pump as the core element. You can have efficiency and comfort all rolled into one system.
When determining efficiency, you also need to consider operating costs. Most forced-air systems operate using gas, propane, electricity, or oil to generate heat. When temperatures hover near 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it can use several gallons of fuel daily to keep your home comfortable, and electricity use can be just as great if not greater. Depending on the fuel source, that can add up to multiple dollars per day.
Compare that to heat pump costs. Heat pumps run on electricity, but since they transfer heat rather than generate it, much less electricity is needed, and it’s used more efficiently. This reduces the amount of energy needed to keep your home warm.
Reducing energy use also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air. Most fuel sources can dump large amounts of pollutants into the air in colder weather. Switching to a heat pump can be cheaper to operate and produce fewer emissions.
Is a Heat Pump Right for You?
Are heat pumps efficient? The short answer is yes. Will they be more in demand in the future, especially in milder climates such as the Pacific Northwest? Again, the answer is yes.
Because we’re in a moderate climate, where the temperatures rarely fall too far below freezing, heat pumps are the perfect heating and cooling system to get the job done. You’ll know a heat pump is the right technology for you if:
You’re Looking for a Way to Decrease Energy Consumption
Because heat pumps move energy instead of creating it, they run on lower energy consumption. It’s a great way to significantly reduce your carbon footprint and reduce emissions due to burning fossil fuels.
You’re Looking to Lower Your Costs
While the initial costs may be higher to replace an existing forced-air system, you’ll save on your monthly costs once in place. Heat pumps also have a longer life span, meaning you won’t be replacing equipment as often.
You Want Improved Safety
Since heat pumps run on electricity, there are fewer risks than when operating using fossil fuels. There is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning while using a heat pump, which means it’s a safer form of heating and cooling for your home.
Are you ready to install a heat pump for better efficiency? If you live in the Portland-Vancouver area, contact the HVAC experts at Entek to discuss whether a heat pump is right for your heating needs.
Meta: Heat pumps are known to be energy-efficient alternatives to standard forced-air HVAC equipment. Learn how a heat pump can make your home more efficient.