Heating and cooling systems account for most of the energy usage in homes. It’s not uncommon for an HVAC system to be responsible for over 50 percent of a home’s overall energy costs.
With an ever-increasing emphasis on energy efficiency these days, combined with steadily rising utility costs, homeowners throughout the land are seeking energy-saving alternatives, especially in the area of heating and cooling. Many homeowners have turned to heat pump systems to replace or supplement their existing HVAC systems.
A Look at Heat Pumps and their Pros and Cons
Heat pumps come in a variety of different types and configurations. The two most widely-used are air source and geothermal heat pumps.
Heat pumps work on the principle of heat transfer, taking heat from one location and moving it to another. Air source heat pumps use outdoor air, which is heated up and directed into a home. A geothermal heat pump performs the same function by using the ground or water as its source. The heating process can also be reversed in both of these systems in order to cool a home when the weather warms up.
Since these systems are built to transfer heat instead of produce it and because they use a relatively minimal amount of electricity to operate, the use of heat pumps as opposed to conventional HVAC systems can result in significant energy and cost savings. However, in certain situations there are some known deficiencies.
In colder climates where temperatures consistently fall below 40 degrees, heat pumps often lose their effectiveness and must at some point switch over to a much less efficient electrical heating element. This is why in such climates heat pumps are often used to supplement standard HVAC equipment, where energy efficiency from a home heating perspective can be maximized for at least for part of a cold-weather season. Heat pumps built especially for this purpose are called “duel fuel” or “hybrid” heat pumps. This is also why heat-pump-only systems work best in moderate climates.
Geothermal heat pumps are generally preferred over air source systems, although they are more expensive to install. But regardless of the type of system a homeowner may choose, a heat pump will greatly increase a home’s heating and cooling efficiencies and will pay for itself over time. Consult with your local heating and air representative for more details on the benefits of heat pump systems and what type of configuration would best meet the needs of your home.
Written and published by Thompson Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Cooling.