One component of the HVAC industry that has been getting a lot of recognition lately is heat pumps. These are often shown as an energy-efficient alternative to other types of cooling and heating systems on the market today. However, an aspect of heat pumps that tends to confuse many homeowners is how they work in the winter season.
Heat Pumps Transfer Heat
When it comes to discussing heat pumps, it’s important to realize that they function much differently than traditional heating systems like furnaces and boilers. Traditional heating systems heat your home by actually creating heat through the combustion process. Heat pumps do not create heat. Rather, they transfer heat from one location to another. It’s imperative to keep this difference in mind as you learn more about heat pumps going into the future.
The Main Process With Refrigerant
Heat pumps can work to both heat your home in the wintertime and cool it in the summertime. They do this through a particular process that utilizes a substance known as refrigerant. The refrigerant is well known to absorb heat from different sources.
There are two main types of heat pumps on the market, which include the air source heat pump and the geothermal heat pump. Geothermal heat pumps pull heat from the soil outside. On the other hand, air source heat pumps pull heat from the air outside. Air source heat pumps are the most common as they are relatively affordable for the average homeowner, and most homes don’t have the ideal conditions to set up an efficient geothermal heat pump operation.
In the wintertime, your heat pump will have a low-pressure vapor refrigerant inside of it. As it passes through the outdoor compressor unit, it absorbs heat from the air outside and becomes pressurized gas. The refrigerant is pumped inside your home to the indoor heat exchanger unit. At the indoor unit, heat is removed from the refrigerant via an air blower being passed over.
When the refrigerant loses its heat, it will turn back to a liquid form. It will then be transported back outside to the compressor unit, where it can go through the cycle all over again. Your heat pump will continue to do this cycle until the inside of your home reaches the desired temperature on your thermostat.
Many homeowners are surprised to learn that their air source heat pump will work to temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. How effective your heat pump is at lower temperatures will highly depend on the specific unit that you purchase. However, all units will have a set temperature where they will start to struggle to adequately heat your home.
This is when resistance heating will kick in. Resistance heating is simply a form of electric heat that your heat pump will utilize. Instead of transporting heat from the air outside to inside your home, your heat pump will use electric heating coils to create heat that is then dispersed throughout your home via your blower fan. Just like any sort of electric heating, it’s going to be much more expensive than other types of heating systems like a gas or oil furnace.
A Note on Dual Heating Systems
When temperatures don’t dip down below freezing that often, a heat pump can be a great way to help save money on your wintertime heating bills. In fact, a heat pump not running on resistance heating is cheaper than any gas or oil furnace. However, when your heat pump switches to resistance heating, it can be extremely expensive to run.
This is where a dual heating system comes into play for milder climates. If you live in a region of the country that regularly experiences temperatures below freezing, you may want to invest in a heat pump and an alternative fuel option like a gas or oil furnace. This will allow you to optimize fuel efficiency no matter what the weather is.
Expert Heating Services
Denver Pro Mechanical provides expert heating services for all of Denver, CO and the surrounding regions. Our knowledgeable HVAC technicians can also assist with all of your cooling, ductless mini-split, and indoor air quality needs. Contact us today to get a technician on the way to your home.