Heat pumps offer an alternative to traditional heating and cooling sources like air conditioners and furnaces, but these appliances are not well known. So how do they work to heat and cool a home? Do they bring in outside air, or do they work by heating or cooling the air already in the house? We did some research, and the answer may surprise you.
Heat pumps do not move air from outdoors to indoors like furnaces and air conditioners do. Instead, these appliances transfer heat energy. This heat energy is collected from either the outdoors or indoors depending on whether it is cooling or heating the home.
When heating a home, heat pumps work by collecting heat from the outdoors and depositing it in the home. When cooling a home, heat pumps work by removing heat from a home and depositing it outdoors.
So now you know that heat pumps do not operate by moving air, and we've given you a general idea of how they do provide heating and cooling. However, there is more to know about this appliance. Keep reading to learn more.
The Heat Pump
Gaining more knowledge about the heat pump could help you determine whether it is right for you as well as give you a better idea of how to perform maintenance if you already own one.
What Is A Heat Pump?
A heat pump is an HVAC appliance that works using electricity, transferring heat energy from one space to another. The innovative aspect of this appliance is that it can be used to provide both heating and cooling depending on the thermostat setting.
It was invented by Robert C. Webber in the 1940s. Until recently, it has not been a popular choice for heating and cooling in the United States, especially in the cooler regions.
However, as the technology has advanced, it is now gaining popularity as an alternative HVAC appliance, now being able to sufficiently heat a home in very cold climates.
If a home needs to be cooled, the heat pump collects heat from inside the home and transports it outdoors. If a home needs to be heated, the heat pump collects heat from outdoors and brings it inside the house.
Where Does A Heat Pump Get Its Heat From?
It may seem impossible to pull heat from the air that is sub-freezing outdoors, but heat pumps can do so because they are pulling the heat energy from the air, not the air itself. When the heat energy is extracted from the outdoor air, it simply becomes cooler.
However, if it is cold outdoors, this means that there is less heat energy in the air, and thus, the heat pump will have to work harder to remove it to transfer indoors. Because of this, there have been other options made available for heat pumps rather than just air-sourced heat pumps.
Types Of Heat Pumps
Air-sourced heat pumps are the type we have been discussing thus far. They absorb the heat which they then transfer from the air either indoors or outdoors, but this is not the only type of heat pump that is available.
Geothermal heat pumps are also known as ground-sourced or water-sourced heat pumps. These appliances gather their heat energy from the home's soil or water source.
These are the types of heat pumps that are best for extreme climates, as they can collect heat energy from their sources even in the coolest of temperatures.
It should be noted that geothermal heat pumps are more expensive to purchase and install, but because of their sourcing system, they are the most energy-efficient. They may cut energy bills by 30-50%.
Deciding If A Heat Pump Is Right For You
You may be interested in this appliance, but we know changing your home's HVAC system is a very weighty decision to make. We will now discuss the heat pump's advantages and disadvantages, and we will answer some other frequently asked questions about its performance.
What Are The Advantages Of A Heat Pump?
There are several advantages to using a heat pump as your heat and cooling source. One of these is lowering the risk of dangers caused by gas appliances. We all enjoy the comfort that gas furnaces provide, but in the back of every homeowner's mind are the hazards that come with using them.
Gas furnaces run the risk of leaking, which can lead to fires, explosions, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Since heat pumps are powered by electricity, this is not a danger.
Heat pumps are also healthier for the environment because they will not be releasing carbon into the atmosphere. This is also thanks to its reliance on electricity instead of fossil fuels.
Heat pumps are also created for maximum efficiency, providing both heat and cooling. This is especially impactful for small homes, where there may not be space for multiple HVAC units.
Because of this efficient design, the heat pump also has the potential to save you money and time. With only one appliance, there is less costly maintenance needed to be done by a professional. This means there is less maintenance required by the homeowner as well.
Heat pumps may also cost less to operate than traditional air conditioners and furnaces. This is particularly true of the geothermal type.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Heat Pump?
Though many advantages come with owning a heat pump, there are significant disadvantages, too. One to be considered is that purchasing and installing a heat pump is remarkably more expensive than installing its combustible counterparts.
Heat pumps cost anywhere from $1,200-$25,000 to purchase, with air-sourced heat pumps being on the lower half of this spectrum and geothermal heat pumps being on the higher half. To install, heat pumps cost anywhere from $2,000-$10,000 depending on the size of the home and the unit.
The installation process can also require a lot of labor as well as changes being made to your yard and home. The difficulty of installation affects the cost of labor for the job.
Air-sourced heat pumps may also struggle to reach efficiency in cold climates, so they may not be suitable for all areas in contrast to furnaces and air conditioners which are utilized universally.
While heat pumps do not release carbon, the fluids that are used in the unit could potentially harm the environment. However, this can be remedied by using biodegradable fluids.
Can A Heat Pump Heat My Whole House?
Yes, this is possible. In the past, heat pumps functioned much like stoves, heating only the surrounding air. This, of course, is less efficient than furnaces that are connected to the ventilation system.
With advancing technology, this is not the case anymore. Now heat pumps can be purchased and included in a ventilation design that will heat most, if not all, of your home. Consulting with a professional is necessary to plan this system.
How Long Do Heat Pumps Last?
Heat pumps can be expected to last 10-15 years. The length of time that a heat pump stays functional depends on the pump's age, the climate in which the pump is being used, and the homeowner's diligence in maintaining the pump.
Pumps that were manufactured long ago are created with less advanced technology. This makes them more apt to wear. Therefore, if comparing heat pumps that were manufactured with 5 years difference, you may expect the younger of the two to have a longer lifespan.
Like all appliances, the more heat pumps are used, the more quickly they wear out. If you live in a very cold or hot climate, the heat pump is probably consistently overworked. Because of this, it will wear out more quickly than it otherwise would.
Whether a homeowner ensures that the pump is properly maintained makes a great difference in the heat pump's lifespan. In addition to making sure the pump receives professional servicing once per year, there are a few other tasks the homeowner should do. These include:
- Clean and replace air filters once per month.
- Regularly clean the fins and coils on the unit.
- Do not allow foliage in the area around the unit.
The heat pump is an efficient HVAC solution that can be used instead of the traditional air conditioner and furnace. While this pump does not work by bringing in air from outdoors, it does absorb heat energy from the outdoor air if working to heat the home.
On the other hand, it will absorb heat energy from the inside of the home and transfer it outdoors if working to cool the home. Via this innovative design, the heat pump provides both heating and cooling to the home.
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