HEAT PUMPS AND OTHER HEATING COMPONENTS
JAN 24, 2017
Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners in climates with moderate heating and cooling needs. If you’re thinking you don’t have a clue what a heat pump is, you’re not alone. Heat pumps use electricity to move heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. This can work wonders in the moderate Arizona winters and save you a few bucks along the way.
WHAT ARE HEAT PUMPS
During the heating season, heat pumps are used to move heat from the outdoors into your house. Alternatively, during the cooling season they move heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors.
The air-to-air (ATA) heat pump is used to transfer heat between your house and the outside air. Energy.gov reports that “High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months”. (I don’t know about you, but every Arizona resident I know wants more cooling comfort for less cost in the summer.)
HOW DO HEAT PUMPS WORK
There are three types of heat pumps to choose from: air-to-air, water source, and geothermal. They collect heat from the air (air-to-air), water (water source), or ground (geothermal) outside your home and concentrate it for use inside. We will concentrate on the air-to-air heat pump in this article because it is the most effective for Arizona residents.
The simplest explanation for the way a heat pump works is that it the heat pump extracts heat from the coolest of two areas and pumps the heat to the warmer of two areas. Warmer spaces get warmer and cooler spaces get cooler. In the Winter that means the heat pump is extracting heat from outside your home and moving it to the inside, but during Summer months the opposite is true. The heat pump extracts heat from inside the home and transfers it outside. The result is a warmer house in the Winter and a cooler house in the Summer.
HEAT PUMPS VS AC
Central air conditioning systems (AC) operate using a closed loop system that circulates a chemical called refrigerant to cool the air. First, the refrigerant, in a gas, travels through a compressor valve. As the gas travels through the outdoor or condenser coil, heat dissipates into the outside air. As the refrigerant gas cools, it converts back into a liquid state and is still under intense pressure at this stage. Next, it travels through an expansion valve and into the evaporator coil. It pulls heat from the surrounding air as it evaporates, thus cooling it. The cool air is then blown with a fan through a system of air ducts that distribute it throughout your entire house.
A heat pump works in a very similar way, but with one key difference. The way the system was developed for a heat pump means heat can be blown into the house or out of the house, whereas an AC unit removes heat from the house. This allows it to function as a heater in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer.
ADVANCED OPTIONS FOR HEAT PUMPS
Heat pump technology is fast expanding. Here are some advanced options you can have with your heat pump:
Traditional heat pumps operate with a single speed. In other words, they are either on or off. A two-speed compressor, however, gives you more control over the heat pump allowing you two levels of operation. The two speeds mean you use less energy when you don’t need it or more when you need some heavy duty heating or cooling. This saves large amounts of electrical energy and reduces compressor wear.
VARIABLE-SPEED OR DUAL-SPEED MOTORS
Some models of heat pumps are equipped with variable-speed or dual-speed motors on their indoor fans (blowers), outdoor fans, or both. The variable-speed controls for these fans attempt to keep the air moving at a comfortable velocity, minimizing cool drafts and maximizing electrical savings. It also minimizes the noise from the blower running at full speed.
If you’re considering a heat pump for your home because you want to save on energy costs and have a cooler summer home and warmer winter home, one of our technicians can walk you through the best option for your home. If you’re not sure a heat pump is a right choice, our expert customer service team can help you evaluate the pros and cons based on your home size, family size, and AC/heat needs. Call or visit us online today.