If the upcoming Hanover winter has got your wallet bracing for the worst, the good news is there’s a more efficient option for keeping your home warm this winter. That better option is the heat pump. Although they’ve been widely available since the 1970s, heat pumps continue to rise in popularity as more and more people realize the exceptional efficiency gains that can be had when using a heat pump from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating. To help remove the shroud of mystery that sometimes surrounds heat pumps here is some basic information about how they operate.
In a typical heating unit, the air is warmed using heat created by the furnace. Most furnaces utilize either electricity or natural gas to create this heat. Although this process is time-tested, it lacks efficiency, both due to energy being wasted and energy being lost as light instead of being converted to heat.
Even in newer gas furnaces that reclaim some of the heat in the exhaust gases, there is still some energy that’s wasted. When it comes to electric furnaces, they tend to be less efficient because the heating coils can’t get as hot as the flame from a gas furnace, meaning that the system has to run longer to produce the same amount of warm air.
Rather than creating heat from a fuel source, a heat pump’s sole purpose is to move or “pump” heat from the outside to your home’s interior. A heat pump does this by lowering the temperature of a refrigerant until the refrigerant is colder than the ambient air. Then, thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, the heat in the ambient air moves naturally from the air to the refrigerant.
The system then pumps the refrigerant into your home. There, the indoor unit, serving as a condenser, sends the refrigerant through a long series of tubes that allow the refrigerant to begin to cool. At the same time, the blower fan in your indoor unit is blowing cool air over the warm condenser, warming the air in the process. After that, the warm air is sent through your ducts to the rest of your home to provide comfort throughout the winter.
An Efficient Process
While the mechanics of heat pump operation sound complicated and inefficient, the heat transfer process is surprisingly efficient. In fact, most of the process happens without any energy input, thanks to the refrigerant’s thermodynamic properties. The few components that do require energy, mainly the compressor and the blower fan, use far less energy to do their work than is required to create heat in a furnace.
This increased efficiency has numerous benefits. One of the most obvious benefits is a lower utility bill. In addition to using far less energy, a heat pump uses the energy it does need far more efficiently. Therefore, you get a much greater volume of heated air for your home for every dollar that you spend on utility costs.
Another benefit of increased efficiency is less wear and tear on your system. Creating heat in an enclosed system puts a lot of stress on a heating system’s components. Therefore, most furnaces have shorter life expectancies than heat pumps from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating.
One problem with extracting heat from the outside air is that sometimes the outside air is quite cold. This means that the refrigerant has to get even colder in order for thermodynamics to take over. Given that the refrigerant tubes are made from metal, these sustained cold temperatures can cause ice to form on the tubes, which can greatly reduce your heat pump’s efficiency.
To overcome this problem, most heat pumps have something called a defrost cycle. This cycle pulls heat from inside your home into the refrigerant so that the warm refrigerant can defrost the outdoor refrigerant lines. As you can imagine, though, this will quickly cause your home to become cold. Therefore, heat pumps have a backup heating system to ensure that your home never dips below your desired temperature.
The type of backup heating system that’s used is one of the main differences between the various heat pumps that we sell at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating. Some heat pumps use a basic electric heater, while others use a gas heater. The efficiency of the backup heater you choose will ultimately determine the overall efficiency of your heat pump.
An Underground Option
Thus far, the discussion has been focused largely on air-source heat pumps. Although these heat pumps make an excellent option, they are not the most efficient type of heat pump available from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating. That honor belongs to the ground-source, or geothermal, heat pump.
Similar to an air-source heat pump, a geothermal heat pump uses electricity to move the refrigerant through long tubes to pump heat from outside your home to its interior. Instead of coming from the air, though, the heat that a geothermal heat pump sends to your home comes from the ground. This is accomplished by burying long refrigerant tubes in the ground and attaching them to an indoor pumping unit.
The best part about using a geothermal heat pump is that the ground stays at a fairly constant temperature year-round. Therefore, even if it’s bitterly cold outside, you’ll be able to easily extract heat from the ground without having to worry about a defrost cycle. Plus, a geothermal heat pump operates during the summer, as well, to provide cooling to your home in a much more efficient manner than a typical air conditioner.
When thinking about installing a heat pump from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, one of the biggest concerns of homeowners is that their heat pump won’t work when the temperature gets really cold. The good news, though, is that heat pumps can operate in a wide variety of conditions. As mentioned, geothermal heat pumps can operate in just about any weather because of the consistent underground temperatures.
Even air-source heat pumps, though, can operate in frigid conditions because the refrigerant’s ability to extract heat isn’t dependent on the ambient air temperature. Instead, the temperature of the refrigerant can be controlled by changing its pressure, which is the sole purpose of the compressor in the outdoor unit.
We Have What It Takes
Installing a complex mechanical system, such as a heat pump, really separates the HVAC amateurs from the pros. An incorrect installation will result in inefficient operation and sudden breakdowns. Luckily, at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, we’ve got the experience necessary to install any type of heating system, whether it’s a heat pump or a more conventional option.
Plus, we can take care of all of your air conditioning needs, such as repair, maintenance, and installation. We can also take care of custom ductwork installations, commercial projects, and more. Our five-star customer reviews and our A+ Better Business Bureau rating serve as a testimony to our customer-first focus. For more information about various heating options for your home, contact us at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating today.