One heat pump can heat and cool a home at the same time. A traditional HVAC system is inefficient and provides uneven temperatures throughout the house. Heating your Birmingham, Alabama, home with a heat pump works best in places with mild winter climates. Here’s how it works.
How does a heat pump furnace work?
It is always warm in the air and on the ground, even in cold weather. The heat from a heat pump is transferred into a building from the air, land, or water. The process is reversed in the summer to cool a building; heat is taken from inside the building and released into the air or the ground. Heat pumps can be divided into three categories:
- Air-source heat pumps operate on a refrigerant cycle, much like an air conditioner. They use an outdoor fan to draw air into the system. The heated air is then transferred into your home through coils filled with refrigerant.
- Heat pumps that extract heat from the ground are geothermal heat pumps. The piping is underground and long loops are inserted to circulate fluid. A heater exchanger heats the liquid during heating then is transported into the home. Depending on how much space you have in your backyard, you can lay your pipes horizontally or vertically.
- The fact that a heat pump eliminates the need for separate heating and cooling systems in your home makes it one of the largest advantages over a traditional heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit. Because they merely transfer heat rather than producing it through the burning of fuel, heat pumps also function quite effectively. They are thus a little more environmentally friendly than a gas furnace.
- Water-Source Heat Pumps If you live near a natural water source such as a well, river, or stream, a water-source heat pump may be a good choice for you. A pipeline connects the water source to your home, and the coils are placed in the water. Heat is easily absorbed by water from the sun or the ground, making it a great energy source.
Heat pumps furnaces contain several components
A heat pump connects the indoor air handler to an outdoor unit. This type of heat pump is popular among residential clients. It consists of the following components:
An outdoor unit that contains:
- A fan that pulls air through it.
- A compressor pressurizes and moves the refrigerant fluid.
- In a condenser, the refrigerant circulates in one direction to heat or cool the air.
- A reversing valve that changes refrigerant flow direction.
- The lines that connect the outdoor unit and the indoor unit carry refrigerant.
- With the defrost control board, the detection of ice and frost automatically triggers a defrosting cycle. Steam will start rising from the outdoor unit when the unit is defrosting.
- A heat strip for supplemental heating is also available.
Indoor equipment includes
- A heat source consists of evaporator coils, blower motors, and fans that move hot air through ducts.
- Vents and ducts that move air throughout the home.
- Control of the thermostat.
Supplemental heat from a backup furnace
If the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat pump’s efficiency falls. Thus, heat pumps are best suited to climates with moderate winters, such as those found in the U.S. southern regions.
Heat pumps, however, have either a heat strip or a backup system in case of shallow temperatures. When a heat strip is used, your heat pump will provide heat. Heat strips might not be the best choice for long-term heating, but they’re suitable for short-term heating. Heat pumps often function in conjunction with gas, oil, or electric furnace that continues to provide enough heat, keeping your family comfortable. Such an HVAC system is referred to as dual-fuel. During the winter, you won’t have to worry about being cold.
Increases the efficiency of your home
The majority of homes are heated only by their furnaces. The furnace generates heat by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, or propane. There are also electric furnaces. For a heat pump to work, heat must be transferred between sources. Therefore, it is an environmentally friendly and highly energy-efficient heating and cooling system.
Although a heat pump sometimes relies on electricity to run, and the furnace may occasionally kick on, it mainly depends on renewable energy from the air, earth, or water. By investing in a heat pump, you can reduce carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Heat pumps are a sensible choice because of the mild winters in Birmingham, Hoover, and the surrounding areas.
As a packaged or split system, a dual fuel system combines two types of energy: an electric heat pump and a gas furnace. Heat pumps and gas furnaces can work together to give you both heating and cooling capabilities due to the seamless alternating between these two energy sources for heating comfort.
How does dual fuel work?
A heat pump unit is designed to keep your home cool and comfortable even when the temperature is exceptionally high, so it can function just like a central air conditioner when your thermostat calls for cool air.
The heat pump provides warm air to your home, reversing the refrigerant flow when you need moderate heating output. The heat pump works like a traditional heat pump. An electric heat pump will pause if the heating demand exceeds the preset heating capacity of a dual fuel system, and a gas furnace will take over until the indoor temperature reaches the temperature designated by your thermostat or control system. The thermostat or control system can be set to switch the system between the heat pump and the gas furnace. Even on the coldest winter days, your dual fuel heating system provides consistent, reliable, and energy-efficient heating.
Energy costs and efficiency
An effective dual-fuel system may reduce heating costs by maximizing the efficiency of specific energy sources, like electricity and natural gas.
However, heat source efficiency is only one aspect of the equation. Depending on your location, the cost of electricity and natural gas may influence the cost-effectiveness of dual-fuel systems. The Energy Information Association2 says that basic energy prices (natural gas, electricity, heating oil) are more volatile than prices for other commodities. Energy prices are influenced by local factors such as power plant proximity, local distribution costs, and price regulation. Hawaii had an estimated annual average electricity price of 26.17 cents per kWh in 2015, and Washington had an estimated yearly average electricity price of 7.41 cents per kWh3.
After determining the switch point yourself or your dealer, dual fuel systems can be evaluated for cost and efficiency. As a result, your energy cost may decrease, and your comfort level may increase if switching from the heat pump to the gas furnace reduces the time it takes to reach the desired temperature. Even though electricity may be less expensive than natural gas in some areas, it may cost you more if you use your heat pump longer to maintain the required indoor temperature.
Heat pumps and gas furnaces may be utilized in combination to provide homeowners with energy cost savings. A licensed expert HVAC dealer can provide you with information on the utility pricing options in your area and the potential savings a dual fuel system may offer.
Advantages of Heat Pump Furnaces
- Energy Efficiency: Heat pump furnaces are highly energy efficient as they transfer heat instead of generating heat. This means that they use less energy compared to traditional furnaces and can result in lower energy bills.
- Versatility: Heat pump furnaces can be used for heating and cooling, making them a great option for home year-round comfort.
- Environmentally Friendly: Using less energy, heat pump furnaces emit fewer greenhouse gases and are therefore more environmentally friendly than traditional furnaces.
Disadvantages of Heat Pump Furnaces
- Initial Cost: Although heat pump furnaces are more cost-effective in the long run, the initial cost of installation can be high.
- Limited Performance in Extreme Temperatures: Heat pump furnaces are not as effective in extremely cold temperatures and may struggle to maintain a comfortable temperature in homes.
- Maintenance Requirements: Heat pump furnaces require regular maintenance and service to ensure they work efficiently and effectively.