A conventional HVAC system contains both a furnace and an air conditioner. In the winter, the furnace warms the home, and in the summer, the air conditioner cools it. But for Utah homeowners who hope to maintain the most energy-efficient home possible, there is an alternative to this conventional setup. Heat pumps are single appliances that provide either heating or cooling functions, depending on the season. Here is a closer look at this heating solution and why it’s becoming such a popular choice among eco-conscious homeowners.
Functioning of Heat Pumps
The most common style of heat pump is called an air-source heat pump. These units operate via a refrigeration cycle similar to that which powers your refrigerator or air conditioner. In the summer, heat is gathered from the air inside your home and blown outward, cooling off your home. In the winter, heat is gathered from the outdoor air and passed into your home. You can change the direction of the heat pump from heating to cooling by flipping a switch.
Geothermal heat pumps are a lot like air-source heat pumps, but rather than exchange heat with the outdoor air, they exchange air with the soil below ground through a series of buried pipes that carry water or a refrigerant. While geothermal heat pumps work well for many homeowners, they are hard to install once a home has already been built. Those looking to replace their current heating systems with something more efficient are best off considering air-source heat pumps.
Advantages of Heat Pumps
The primary advantage of a heat pump over a conventional furnace is that it does not combust fuel to generate heat. A heat pump uses electricity to move heat rather than burning fuel to create heat. As a result, the energy savings can be substantial. If your electricity is obtained from a green source, such as solar or hydro power, operating a heat pump is likely a greener choice than operating a furnace that burns fuel and releases gasses like carbon dioxide. There’s also no risk of a gas or oil leak with a heat pump.
Today’s heat pumps often come “solar ready,” which means they are easy to integrate with a solar module to create an even more eco-friendly HVAC solution. Because heat pumps are considered a “green” choice, you may be eligible for federal and state tax incentives if you choose to install one.
Heat pumps have been in use since the 1940s, so manufacturers have had plenty of time to perfect the technology and create systems that are efficient and easy to use. Modern heat pumps are built to withstand the harshest outdoor conditions, integrate with the latest smart thermostats, and operate quietly.
Intricacies to Consider
On the coldest of winter days, the heat pump may not be able to gather enough heat from outdoors to effectively heat your home. Modern heat pumps generally contain electric heating coils that turn on to generate heat when needed. However, some Utah homeowners choose to pair their heat pumps with an energy-efficient gas furnace. The furnace serves as a backup, heating the home only when the heat pump cannot keep up without utilizing its electric heating coils.
If you are changing over to a heat pump after having a separate furnace and air conditioner in your home, your HVAC contractor may need to make some modifications to the duct work in your home in order to accommodate this change. This may add to the installation costs associated with changing over to a heat pump.
For those who value energy efficiency, air-source heat pumps are a great choice. There are many different models and features to consider, and your HVAC technician can help determine which is best for your needs.