Having a heat pump in your home is quite different than a furnace. Even though furnaces and air conditioners tend to be the more default choice for homeowners to keep their homes comfortable, heat pumps can be more affordable and are significantly more environmentally friendly. As awareness about heat pumps grows, more and more homeowners are converting to heat pumps to lower energy bills and shrink their carbon footprint.
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is a powerful alternative to a conventional furnace and air conditioner. Powered by electricity, a heat pump is a type of heat exchange that is used to circulate air to keep a home warm or cool. Heat pumps can be used to heat or cool a space to keep your home comfortable year-round.
A heat pump does not generate heat - it merely circulates air of differing temperatures. Depending on the type of heat pump, the heat or energy used to power the pump may be sourced from the ground (geothermal) or air (air source heat pump). In moderate climates, it’s possible that a heat pump may eliminate the need for a traditional furnace or central air conditioning.
What Type of Heat Pump Do I Have?
Knowing the type of heat pump you have will help you when trouble-shooting potential images or scheduling maintenance. There are three types of heat pumps commonly installed in residential buildings.
- Air source heat pump – this type of pump extracts heat from outdoor air and moves warm air through your home instead of generating heat through the burning of fossil fuel. An air source heat pump can be used year-round as both a heater and air conditioner.
- Geothermal heat pump – this type of pump extracts heat from the ground below your yard or driveway, and transfers it to your home through forced air or radiant heat flooring. In the summer, it air conditions by extracting heat from your indoor air and sending it underground or to your hot water heater for free hot water. Geothermal heat pumps are twice as efficient as air source heat pumps.
- Combination heat pump – a heat pump that uses a combination of technologies to heat or cool spaces.
Like other types of HVAC systems, heat pumps come in several different models.
- Split system heat pump
- Ductless mini-split heat pump
- Package heat pump
- Window heat pump
If you’re still asking yourself, “What type of heat pump do I have?” then contact Aire Serv®. Your local Aire Serv technician can quickly determine what type of heat pump you have and if it requires any type of repair or maintenance. Learn more about heat pumps and heat pump operation.
How to Tell If You Have a Heat Pump
Wondering how to tell if you have a heat pump? We’ve got you covered. You can tell if you have an air source heat pump by turning on your heating system and going outside to look at your “AC unit.” Remember, a heat pump is really a heat exchanger. A traditional air conditioner will not run if you turn up the heat, but an exterior heat pump or air source heat pump will. You will know if you have a heat pump if the exterior unit is running.
Unlike air source heat pumps commonly located outdoors on the side of the house, geothermal heat pumps are usually installed in a basement or garage and can look like other home heating apparatuses, which can make these both easier and more difficult to identify. Other methods for identifying both types of heat pumps include:
- Checking the label and the yellow SEER rating. These should indicate whether or not the unit is a heat pump.
- Checking your thermostat for an “emergency heat” setting. Heat pumps have an emergency heat setting to use in the event of unseasonable cold temperatures.
Forced Air vs. Heat Pump
Gas-powered forced air heating and cooling systems require warm or cold air to be generated via a furnace or air conditioner. A heat pump typically harnesses heat energy from the ground (geothermal) or from the outdoors (air source) to heat or cool a home. Because of its design, a heat pump exchanges heat, moving hot air outside or underground to cool a home or pulling warm air from the outside or ground, inside to heat a home. A heat pump uses less purchased energy to operate than traditional air conditioners or furnaces.
Heat Pump Location
Heat pumps are used most efficiently in households or businesses located in regions that rarely see below-zero temperatures and are decently mild. If you live in a region with frequent below-zero temperatures, it will be important to also have a furnace installed in your home. Your thermostat can be programmed to turn the furnace on in the event that temperatures dip below a set temperature.
Regardless of your location, the EPA says that, “Geothermal systems are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available.” If you’re looking to be more environmentally conscious and lower your monthly energy bills, a heat pump could be for you. Even if you need a backup furnace for a few days each winter, it’s likely that a heat pump will save you energy and money on your home heating and cooling bills.
Heat Pump Efficiency
Much like furnace or air conditioner installation, there are upfront installation costs associated with adding a heat pump to your home. However, heat pumps deliver impressive return on investment. It’s estimated that air heat pumps produce up to $3 worth of heat for every dollar spent on electricity to run the system. For geothermal heat pumps, it’s up to $4 worth. That’s efficient!
Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pumps aren’t just limited to HVAC systems. Using heat exchange technologies like those found in heat pump heating and cooling systems are also used to heat water. Aire Serv technicians install heat pump water heaters in homes throughout the US and Canada. Learn more about heat pump water heaters and water heater services.
How to Use a Heat Pump Efficiently
A heat pump works differently than other home heating and cooling systems and should be operated differently. In general, follow these rules when operating your heat pump:
- Set your heat pump to a medium or medium-high fan speed.
- If your home is equipped with auxiliary heating or cooling systems, turn them off until you establish a baseline. You may be surprised that you do not need to use these other systems when using your heat pump.
- Be sure to change your heat pump filter regularly based on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.
- Schedule regular maintenance for your heat pump and all other HVAC systems.
How you operate your home’s heat pump will depend on the make and model. Consult your heat pump manual or your local Aire Serv to learn more about the optimal use and maintenance of your unit.
Still weighing your options? Don’t rush your decision. Deciding between a new furnace/air conditioner and a heat pump for your home or business can be a major decision.
Trust Aire Serv With All Your Heat Pump Needs
At Aire Serv, we pride ourselves on finding the heating, cooling, and ventilation solutions that are right for you. If you’d like to learn more about heat pumps or are ready to install one at your home, contact your local Aire Serv. We’re ready to help you breathe easier with heating and cooling for your home. Request an appointment online or call us to get started today.