If you are in the market for a new heat pump for your home, you may be overwhelmed by the range of choices available. Heat pumps are popular because they are efficient and budget-friendly. A heat pump can heat your home in most cases at a much lower operating cost than a furnace. When choosing between a furnace and a heat pump, the heat pump might cost more initially, but your long-term operating cost may be 25% to 50% less. Be sure to consult with a professional HVAC contractor for a heating installation consultation to help you make the best decision.
How Heat Pumps Work
Before you decide on a heat pump, you should understand the basic principles of how heat pumps work. A heat pump is a piece of equipment that uses a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another. They do not need to burn fuel to create heat. They simply extract heat out of the air and pump it into the home. The same heat pump unit can provide air conditioning in the summer. Heat pumps and air conditioners function in a similar way.
Heat pumps work best in moderate climates where extreme heat and cold for extended periods are rare. In these moderate climates, a heat pump in lieu of a furnace and a separate air conditioner can be very budget-friendly. In colder climates, however, you will likely need an additional heating source to keep your home comfortable during longer, colder winters. The reason is that the air in cold climates has less heat available, so the heat pump must work much harder to keep the home warm. You need to consider which form of back-up heating system you will use: typically an electric, gas, or oil furnace, depending on your climate.
Different Kinds of Heat Pumps
In addition to being budget friendly, heat pumps usually keep the home more evenly heated and does not go on and off as often as a traditional furnace.
You have a variety of heat pump systems to consider. As you consider which system to use, remember that they all operate on the same principle – transfer of heat. None of them burn fuel to create heat.
The higher quality devices will cost more initially, but they last years longer than the budget quality models. The least expensive device will be a single-stage heat pump; meaning when it goes on it will be on at 100% until it shuts off. These models are the least efficient. A two-stage heat pump provides much more efficiency because it runs on lower capacity most of its operating time to boost efficiency and indoor temperature balance. The most expensive heat pumps are also the most efficient. Those are called variable capacity heat pumps, or modulating heat pumps. These have a compressor that modulates capacity from about 40% to 100%. These systems can deliver exactly the right amount of heating (or air conditioning) for your home.
Here Is an overview of some of the most popular heat pump systems available now:
Air-air heat pump. This heat pump system takes heat from outdoor air and transfers it to the interior of your home through ductwork. It uses an outdoor fan to bring air over refrigerant-filled coils. These coils transfer the heat to the interior of your home, and fans distribute it through your home. Home heat pumps are usually split systems with an outdoor and an indoor component installed through the wall. Depending on the model, you may have at least one indoor component to distribute heat. The air-air heat pump has a reversing valve, which allows it to reverse the flow of the refrigerant. This system then operates in the opposite direction and transfers the heat from inside your home to the outside.
Ground-source heat pump. Ground-source heat pumps absorb heat from the ground or an underground body of water and transfer it indoors. The most common type of ground-source heat pump transfers heat directly from the ground by absorbing it through buried pipes filled with water or a refrigerant. One feature of ground-source heat pumps to factor into your decision-making is they will de-humidify the air in your home better than an air-source heat pump or air conditioner in the summer. The reason for this is the design and structure of the coils in the ground-source heat pump system.
Absorption heat pump. With an absorption heat pump system, the air-source pump is powered by a source other than electricity. It may be natural gas, solar power, propane or geothermal-heated water. These systems are suited for large homes. An absorption heat pump does not use compressed refrigerant. Instead, it absorbs ammonia into water, and then a smaller pump pressurizes it. The heat source then boils the ammonia out of the water, and the process starts all over again.
Specialized heat pumps. Other, less common heat pump systems are available. They include:
- Mini-split heat pump, designed for homes that do not have ductwork.
- Reverse cycle chiller, heats and cools water, and can operate efficiently in below freezing temperatures.
- Cold climate heat pump detects the minimum amount of energy needed to provide the desired level of heating or cooling and adjusts its output up or down.
- All-climate heat pump, designed for extremely cold climates, operates in temperatures as cold as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
All of these heat pump systems have options and features that can make them operate even more efficiently. These features often cost more initially, but can pay for themselves over time.
The cost of heating installation varies based on your home and its existing infrastructure. If you are building a new home or retrofitting an old home, you will need to factor in the cost of ductwork installation. Heating installation may require a new concrete pad, refrigerant lines, air handler, and thermostat. Additional optional upgrades will also add to the total cost.
Contact a Professional HVAC Contractor for more information
Before you decide which heat pump you want for your home, be sure to consult with an experienced HVAC technician for heating installation. An expert in heating systems can evaluate your needs and help you choose the best heat pump system while staying within your budget.