Most people who live in the temperate world will need some kind of heating system for the cold winter months, as well as, perhaps, some form of cooling for the summertime. As the world is slowly waking up to the climate crisis people are looking for ways to create power without burning fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions globally. Should a heat pump replace your furnace? Let’s take a closer look.
What Exactly Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is part of your heating and cooling system and is placed outside your home. It warms your home by pulling warmth from the cold outdoor air and redistributing it through your home. In the warmer months, it pulls warmth out of your home and redistributes it outside.
Heat pumps transfer heat, rather than generate it as furnaces do. They run on electricity and don’t rely on burning fossil fuels as many furnaces do. This could make them a more environmentally friendly option, depending on how your electricity is generated where you live.
If you need a new furnace installation be sure to consider all the options and choose what works best for your unique situation.
What’s the Difference Between a Ground Source and an Air Source Heat Pump?
A ground source heat pump sometimes referred to as a ground source heat pump transfers heat between the ground outside your home and the air inside. Sometimes they also use a nearby source of water. They are more expensive to install but are generally more efficient due to the near constancy of the ground or water temperature throughout the year.
A ground source pump draws heat from a pipe roughly 10 feet below the ground, where the temperature tends to stay constantly around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The process can also be reversed in hot weather, where heat is drawn from the house and pumped into the earth, and the cooler air from the ground is exchanged.
Air source heat pumps transfer air between indoor and outdoor air and is generally more popular for residential heating and cooling than ground source heat pumps.
Where Do Heat Pumps Work Best?
Heat pumps used to only work best for areas where temperatures were milder and didn’t often drop below freezing. However, technological advancement in extraction and compression in recent years has meant that heat pumps can work effectively at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, with certain models capable of working as low as 20 below freezing.
For use in colder climates below this, heat pumps can be combined with a furnace for energy-efficient heating on all but the coldest parts of the year. When the temperature drops the furnace can be used.
This type of system is known as a dual-fuel system and is a cost-effective and energy-efficient way of heating and cooling your home.
Is a Heat Pump Right for Me?
There is no easy answer to this question. Factors to consider include your environment, temperature, and even soil type. Also, consider the cost of the competing technology; whether they are natural gas or oil; whether there are any economic incentives to lower the costs of installation, and the local price of electricity in your area.
If you’re considering a heat pump for ecological reasons, then you’ll also have to think about how electricity is produced in the area you live in.
Replacing a gas-powered furnace with an expensive air pump doesn’t make a lot of economic sense in many parts of the US due to the accessible price of natural gas. However, if the environment is your primary concern then the (potentially) lesser environmental damage might outweigh the greater economic cost of installation.
Some users in at least 17 states may receive economic incentives in the form of tax cuts or rebates for switching. Federal rebates are possible on some types of heat pumps too.
Are There Any Extra Features to Look Out for in a Heat Pump?
Some models are equipped with a variable-speed or dual-speed motor on the indoor fans (blowers) outdoor fans or both. The variable speed fans attempt to keep the air moving at a comfortable velocity, maximizing economical savings and limiting cool drafts. There’s also reduced noise from the fan running at full speed.
The Bottom Line
Whether you should consider changing from a regular furnace to a heat pump depends on many factors specific to your location, requirements, and economic and environmental concerns.
To decide whether a heat pump is right for you, you should consider many factors before making your decision, such as what works best for your situation, and what your primary reasons for switching are, be it economic or environmental.