What is a Heat Pump

What is a Heat Pump?

Energy efficiency and sustainability are important to many homeowners. Running your heating system all winter long, whether it is natural gas or oil, can be a major expense. And if you need an air conditioner for the summer heat, you need an additional system that can cool the air. Heat pumps have emerged as a technology that may be a good alternative for the way we heat and cool our homes. But what exactly is a heat pump, and how does it work?

A heat pump is an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system. The system runs on electricity and has a dual function. It can either heat or cool indoor spaces by using a small amount of energy to transfer heat from one location to another.

How it works

As we stated, a heat pump operates by transferring heat. The heat pump system includes two devices: one installed indoors and one outdoors. For example, during the winter, it’s able to absorb heat from the chilly outdoor air (or ground depending on the type of pump) with a refrigerant. It then pumps the heat inside to warm the indoor space. However, during the summer, you can change the setting and cool the indoor space. By adjusting the setting, the equipment will reverse its actions by pulling the hot air from the indoor space and moving it outside.   

Types of heat pumps

The two most popular types of heat pumps are air source and ground source. The air source pump is the most common, as it transfers heat between the inside and outside by absorbing the heat from the air. The ground source pump is called the geothermal heat pump and it transfers heat from the ground outside to the air inside. While the geothermal pump is more costly to install, it’s likely to last longer. Why? Because the underground portions aren’t exposed to the elements unlike the air source pump.

Difference between a heat pump and a gas furnace

A gas furnace generates warmth by burning natural gas or propane, creating a high-temperature flame that heats the air. This hot air is then circulated through the ductwork to warm your home. In contrast, a heat pump doesn’t burn fuel to create heat; instead, it transfers heat from one place to another.

Heat pumps use refrigerant to condition the air in your home by adding or removing heat through thermal exchange. However, heat pumps may be less efficient in extremely cold climates and you may need a supplemental heating source to ensure your family stays warm on the coldest days.

Difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner

An air conditioner circulates cool air into your home to create a comfortable atmosphere and improve indoor air quality. An air conditioner cannot pump hot air back into a home to help with heating. Instead a home with an air conditioner typically uses a furnace to heat the home.

Why invest in a heat pump

While there are pros and cons with the type of heat pumps, it’s important to highlight some of the reasons why, in general, the heat pump is beneficial.

  • It’s environmentally friendly. As we discussed above, they transfer heat rather than burn fuel. Thus, unlike traditional systems the heat pump reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It’s energy efficient. The heat pump’s ability to provide more heating and cooling energy than it consumes in electricity makes it an energy efficient alternative.
  • It’s affordable. Experts argue heat pumps are the most affordable way to heat and cool your home due to the amount of energy it saves in contrast to other HVAC systems.
  • It’s consistent. Traditional HVAC systems aren’t able to hold temperatures steady the way that the heat pump can. This consistency leads to you being more comfortable in your home!

Before you make a decision on which type of HVAC system you want, it is important to consider your budget, the climate in your area, and what type of heating and cooling you need. If you are interested in learning more about whether this is the right option for you, contact an expert today.