Unlike traditional furnaces that generate their own heat by burning fossil fuel, a heat pump pulls heat from the air or ground to warm your home. It’s an environmentally friendly option that uses 50 percent less energy than electric resistance furnaces and is the most economical way to heat a house in most climates.
A heat pump system is comprised of a outdoor unit connected to indoor air handling units, ducts, a thermostat or control and refrigeration lines and pipes. It has a reversing valve that switches the flow of refrigerant between heating and cooling modes. When in heating mode, the outdoor unit pulls heat from the air or ground, compresses it to increase its temperature, then pushes it into the indoor units. The reversing valve changes the flow again in cooling mode to remove the heat from the indoor units and send it back outside.
Heat pumps are available as ducted systems that work with your existing ducts, or as mini-split, or “ductless,” units that can be installed in homes without ducts. Ductless heat pumps are also a convenient way to add heating to an older home with baseboard heaters.
When comparing different heat pump models, look at their HSPF and SEER ratings—the higher these numbers are, the more efficient the system is. A HSPF rating measures how efficiently the heat pump performs in cold weather, and a SEER rating measures its summer performance.
Your climate determines the size of Heat Pump you need for your home. If you live in a milder area, you can use a smaller heat pump to heat your home. A heat pump that’s rated for cold climates can function to its full potential at temperatures as low as 5°F.
The more insulated your home is, the lower your heating costs will be with a heat pump. If you’re installing a new heat pump in an old home, consider upgrading your insulation before getting a heat load calculation done. Then you can install the right-sized heat pump for your needs, saving money on installation and ongoing operating expenses.
Regular maintenance is important for heat pumps. Keeping up with routine cleaning and changing the filter ensures good airflow and prevents dust, pollen and pet hair from building up in the system. In addition, a professional can check for leaks, improper pressure and temperature of the refrigerant, as well as overall efficiency, to make sure your heat pump is running at top performance.
If you have a home warranty, check to see if HVAC breakdowns and duct repairs are covered. If not, call a top-rated pro for help finding and fixing the problem. They may be able to advise you of a more cost-effective repair option, and can provide advice for preventing future issues. They can also recommend other ways to save energy in your home. You can even get free, no-commitment estimates from pros near you.