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Heat pumps use pressurized refrigerant to transfer energy between two locations. They function just like air conditioners and refrigerators. However, heat pumps contain a specialized component called a reversing valve that allows the unit to function as a heater in the winter and an air conditioner during the summer. The most common types include air-source heat pumps, geothermal or ground-source models, and ductless mini-splits.
Environmentally friendly geothermal or ground-source heat pumps use a subterranean loop of fluid-filled pipes to gather or release energy. Heat can be transferred to the soil or a body of water as long as the depth provides stable year-round temperatures. Geothermal heat pumps are quiet, long-lasting, and exceptionally efficient. They provide $4 to $6 of heat for every dollar spent on energy. Additionally, ground loops can be constructed in various horizontal or vertical configurations depending on the layout of the property and its natural resources.
Air-source models are the most popular type of heat pump in the United States. They provide efficient heating and cooling without the need for costly fossil fuels. Homeowners and businesses can choose from split systems with separate indoor and outdoor components or packaged models where all of the equipment is housed in one self-contained outdoor unit. Ductless mini-split and multi-split heat pumps are also popular as are two-stage and variable-speed models, especially for consumers who are interested in achieving maximum efficiency.
Replacing an aging heat pump can be a smart decision, especially if the unit is over 10 years old and suffering from reliability issues or poor performance. When planning for the future, homeowners should consider their recent ownership costs, including money spent on utilities and repairs. New models can lower heating and cooling costs by 20% to 50%. They're also quieter and provide superior humidity control. Consumers should think carefully before repairing an older unit. In the event of a catastrophic breakdown, it's often better to invest in a new installation when repairs equal half the cost of a new system.
Yes, thanks to improved compressor designs, heat pumps perform well in all conditions although they're ideal for moderate climates. In subfreezing temperatures, their efficiency may decrease. That's why most units are equipped with an electric-resistance backup heat strip. Hybrid or dual-fuel models that are paired with a gas furnace are popular in areas that experience harsh winters.
Heat pump installations start with an on-site consultation to assess the client's home, building site, and efficiency goals. Contractors perform detailed load calculations to measure the structure's heating and cooling requirements. They will also make sure that the unit and ducts function together to deliver optimal airflow. During replacements, contractors will remove the existing system and recover remaining refrigerant to comply with environmental regulations. When installing geothermal heat pumps, contractors must assess the property's layout and natural resources before installing the ground loop. Contractors can also secure permits and ensure that the installation meets local building codes.
In most cases, heat pumps are more versatile and efficient than electric heaters. Radiant heaters and electric furnaces are long-lasting and require minimal maintenance, but there are some disadvantages. While these systems are efficient, air-source heat pumps can deliver twice as much heat for the same cost. As a bonus, heat pumps provide air conditioning during warm weather.
Heat pumps are among the most efficient HVAC systems available today. Unlike furnaces, they don't require fossil fuels, which have a larger impact on the environment and the wallet. Heat pumps simply transfer energy to and from the air or the ground. Additionally, homeowners who select variable-speed heat pumps, ductless mini-splits, or geothermal models can enjoy even greater efficiency and energy savings.