Can Installing a Heat Pump in My Home Save Me Money?

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What the most efficient and cost-effective way to heat your home?  A heat pump can be a more cost-effective HVAC solution depending on a number of factors. In this article, we will look at how a heat pump operates and the conditions under which a heat pump is the better HVAC solution.

What is a Heat Pump?

The most basic description of a heat pump is a device that transfers heat energy from one area to another without creating the heat itself. The direction in which this unit transfers heat is dependent on how the controls are set on the control panel.

How it Works

HeatPumpSystemThe main components of a heat pump are the heat exchanger, expansion valve, an evaporator, compressor, and refrigerant.

The heat exchanger is installed inside the home and consists of a large number of copper plates with tubes running inside them. The copper metal absorbs the heat in the home and transfers it to the refrigerant liquid running in the copper tubes. The refrigerant absorbs the energy and converts to a gas which moves to the exterior of the home where the evaporator releases the heat energy to the outside environment. The refrigerant then converts back to liquid and is again pumped into the house. It is through this cycle that a heat pump cools your home. During the cold season, the cycle is reversed.

Split System Heat Pump

In a split system heat pump, some of the main components we mentioned above are installed indoors while other components are installed outdoors. Typically, the heat exchanger is installed indoors while the compressor and evaporator (condenser) are installed outdoors, and a conduit that carries a refrigerant connects the two components. Think of a split system heat pump as a refrigerator. You have the freezer compartment and the normal cooling compartment. Both compartments share the compressor and the condenser which are the black metal fins you see on the exterior of the fridge. However, each compartment maintains a different temperature programmed by its individual thermostat. A split system has multiple heat exchangers in different rooms all sharing the same exterior components. This system is very heat efficient because only the refrigerant liquid is circulated, unlike the second option which uses air ducts to transfer heat across rooms. This option is called a packaged heat pump.

Packaged Heat Pump

In this system, the unit sits outside and circulates cold or warm air through air ducts in the building. There are significant heat losses when transporting air versus moving refrigerant making packaged heat pumps more expensive to run than heat pump split systems.

Saving Money

The first thing you must do to save money while using a heat pump is to have the correct sized unit installed. Oversizing or under sizing both leads to excessive energy consumption. Also, ensure that the unit has a high energy star rating. While these units consume less energy over the lifetime of the product, they do have a higher upfront cost. The bottom line is that an efficient unit will pay for itself in the long run. Even if you are feeling a little too warm or cold, avoid running your heat pump at maximum capacity as it will only use more electricity and cause unnecessary wear and tear on the compressor and the fans. Next, ensure that both the exterior and interior components of your system are maintained and cleaned regularly. Dirty components reduce the efficiency of operation and increase your utility bills. During cold seasons only heat rooms that you intend to use. Additionally, ensure that your home is well insulated to prevent unwanted heat loss and heat gains, this will also reduce run time and cut down on utility costs Last, pre-warming a room for 15 minutes before using it will also reduce run time and usage.  
February 13, 2019
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