Heat Pumps Work All SeasonsOctober 24th 2011
I am sure many of you have heard of a heat pump, some of you may even have one, but has anyone ever taken the time to explain what they are and how they work?
Heat pumps are often misunderstood or not understood at all. Because of this, you may not realize that there may be a better heating and cooling option than a furnace or air conditioner. A heat pump is an efficient method of cooling your home in the summer and warming it in the winter.
Although heat pumps are new to many people, they have been around for over three decades. Its name is a little misleading, a heat pump is an efficient method of heating a home during the cold winter months and also cooling it during the blistering summer months. A heat pump looks like an air conditioner, but that's only the outside appearance. It actually has two functions based on the same principles for both. In warm weather situations, the heat pump works as a normal air conditioner. It extracts heat from inside the home and transfers it to the outdoor air through a condensing process.
In colder weather, however, the process reverses, collecting heat from the outdoor air and transferring it inside your home. Even when the air outside feels extremely cold, the air still contains some heat. The heat pump pulls the heat from this cold outdoor air and sends it inside to warm your home, using a similar process that a refrigerator would. When there is not enough heat in the outside air to meet the demand of the thermostat setting, an electric heater supplements the outdoor air to warm the home. While many people find the winter operation of a heat pump the most difficult to understand, it is during the heating cycle that the heat pump produces the most savings. Unlike a furnace that turns fossil fuel or electricity into heat, the heat pump collects heat that already exists in the outdoor air by means of its refrigeration cycle.
Consequently, a heat pump will produce two to three times more heat than the energy it uses.
In addition, a heat pump can be an effective add-on option to use in conjunction with an existing gas furnace. With a dual-fuel system, the two systems share the heating load but never function at the same time. Each system operates when it is most cost effective. The heat pump will be the primary heating and cooling system. However, when the temperature drops below the heat pump's ability to operate as efficiently as the gas furnace, the gas furnace will take over until the temperature rises enough for the heat pump to operate more efficiently.
It should be noted that there are grants available if you upgrade your heating system with a new heat pump though the federal ecoENERGY Retrofit for Homes and LiveSmart BC Efficiency Incentive programs when. Act fast before the grant funds are fully allocated or the programs expire.
Remember to take into consideration the noise that may be generated by your heat pump related to where the equipment is installed, and how this may affect your neighbour - be a good neighbour!