Despite the name, heat pumps are not just a device for heating your home. Instead, heat pumps provide climate control throughout the year, cooling your home during the hot summer months and keeping it warm during the cold winter months. This all-in-one HVAC solution is tempting for many homeowners. If you are considering upgrading your home HVAC system or installing a whole new system, heat pumps potentially offer many advantages. Read on to learn about how these systems work so that you can make an informed choice about having one installed in your home.
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one location to another. During the warmer months, this means that a heat pump transports hot air from your home to the outside environment. During cooler months, the heat pump extracts warmth from the outside air and moves it into your home. For heat pumps to work efficiently during the winter, however, it is important that outside temperatures are not too cold. In general, heat pumps work best when temperatures are somewhere above 25F. In general, heat pumps are most efficient when the temperature differential between the interior and exterior environments is not exceptionally large.
From a technical standpoint, heat pumps are essentially reversible air conditioners. They utilize a fluid known as a refrigerant which undergoes a cycle of heating and cooling as it moves through the system. When the heat pump is in cooling mode, the refrigerant is used to transport heat away from your home's interior. Since the refrigerant reaches extremely cold temperatures, it can also be used to extract heat from fairly chilly air as well. During the winter, this property allows the heat pump to pull heat from the cold outside air and use it to warm your home.
Advantages of Heat Pumps
The primary advantage of a heat pump system is its energy efficiency. Heat pumps are highly energy efficient, especially when the temperature differential between the outside air and the desired inside temperature are fairly small. For areas with relatively moderate climates, this can lead to very large energy savings. Additionally, heat pumps offer heating and cooling with a single system, which has the potential to minimize maintenance costs over the long run.
Common Heat Pump Problems
Like any HVAC system, heat pumps can develop problems that require professional help. Luckily, many common heat pump problems are relatively minor and inexpensive to deal with. In fact, most of the problems homeowners experience with their heat pumps are similar to problems that occur with just about any HVAC system. These include:
- A clogged filter resulting in the system overheating and cycling
- Thermostat issues causing inconsistent heating or cooling, or outright preventing the system from turning on when needed
- Dirty components other than the filter resulting in reduced airflow
Many of these problems can be solved by performing simple maintenance, although more serious issues will still require the help of a professional heat pump repair technician.