Heat Pump 411 – Everything You Wanted to Know About Heat Pumps

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Many Phoenix area homeowners have questions about heat pumps. How does a heat pump differ from an air conditioner? Can a heat pump keep my home comfortable during the winter months? Is a heat pump the right choice for my home? Traditionally, in colder winter weather areas of the United States (the East Coast, Midwest and northern states) home heating and cooling systems are installed with two basic components – a gas furnace, as well as a separate air conditioning unit. However, in Arizona, many neighborhoods and outlying areas are without gas lines, so gas furnaces are not always an option. In many instances, heat pumps are the logical choice.

What Are the Differences Between Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners?

If you see an air conditioning unit sitting next to a heat pump in a showroom, they look the same. The inner workings are very similar with one major difference. An air conditioner can only cool your home by transferring the heat from inside your house to the outdoors (that is, of course, an oversimplification of the process of air conditioning). While a heat pump has the ability to reverse the process and extract heat from the outdoors and “pump” it into your home. Pump is not the ideal word in describing this process. Heat pumps “move” heat from one place to another rather than generate heat (which is what gas furnaces or electric heaters do.) Generating heat, whether utilizing gas or electric power can get costly. The good news is Phoenix winters are generally very mild with only a few cold snaps per year.

Is There More Than One Type of Heat Pump?

There are three main types of heat pumps; air source, split ductless and geothermal. Air source heat pumps are the most popular choice for Arizona homes and can reduce your heating bill significantly over old school electric baseboard heaters. Split ductless can be an excellent option for one room additions, garage workshops or a separate studio because they do not require any ductwork. Geothermal heat pumps can greatly reduce your home’s energy usage, but they require major upfront installation costs. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of heat pump system. It’s a good idea to call in one of our experienced professionals to perform a complete HVAC inspection and assess your needs, review the options available to you and explain which system might work best for your home.

There are many reasons to consider choosing a heat pump for your home, including:

  • Heat Pumps Are Extremely Energy Efficient – A quote from the Department of Energy website states, “Today’s heat pump can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 50% compared to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters. High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months.” Heat pumps yield more heat compared to the amount of electricity it takes to run them than older types of electric furnaces or heaters.
  • Cost – Which Is More Economical? – An expense comparison between a traditional AC/gas furnace house versus a home with a heat pump shows that over the course of one year, the cost works out to be just about the same. It is true that purchasing a heat pump with an extremely high SEER rating may be more expensive initially. However, there is no clear financial advantage to going with an air conditioner/gas furnace system over a heat pump.
  • Heat Pumps in Below Freezing Temperatures – People from all over the US visit Arizona from November through April because of the ideal desert climate. Temperatures in Phoenix are near perfect while the rest of the country bundles up for winter. However, occasionally temperatures will dip below freezing which can present a challenge for heat pumps. The solution is added heat strips which are electrically powered wire heating elements that warm up the air before it is blown into your home. Depending on how warm you like the temperature to be (especially in the mornings) your heat strip usage will vary.

Winter Is Coming

With the beautiful fall weather and relief from summer’s extreme heat, HVAC issues may be the last thing on your mind. However, November is a great month to schedule a fall checkup and review your options if you are considering a heat pump. Why not give us a call, and one of our friendly service pros will drop by and perform a full HVAC system assessment for you.

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