Heat pumps are all-in-one residential HVAC systems. They first went into use in American homes in the mid-1940s, and they have become increasingly more prevalent over the years as the technology has become more sophisticated. Heat pumps are quite efficient, often have rebates and other credits available and provide many homeowners with an excellent total cost of ownership. With all of these benefits in mind, join us as we answer some of the most common questions homeowners have about this kind of equipment.
Does a Heat Pump Heat and Cool a Home?
Yes. Perhaps some confusion arises due to the term “heat pump,” but these units can both heat a home in winter and cool it in summer. A heat pump is essentially an air conditioner that can reverse the cycle in order to provide home heating. To help people visualize how this equipment works, a heat pump is often described as moving warmth from either outside or inside a home.
How Are Heat Pumps Rated for Heat?
The heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) is the metric used to gauge how well heat pumps can heat. HSPF is the ratio of electricity used to heat output over a heating season. Note that this is different from furnaces and boilers, which are rated using annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). Furnaces and boilers generate heat whereas heat pumps transfer heat. In other words, there is no direct comparison between HSPF and AFUE. Nevertheless, when considering a heat pump for a climate in which it is appropriate, you can presume that a heat pump will be more efficient than a furnace or boiler.
How Are Heat Pumps Rated for Air Conditioning?
Seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) is the metric used to gauge how well a heat pump cools a home. It is notable that SEER is the same rating used for air conditioners, which means that you can use it to directly compare all manner of heat pumps to all manner of air conditioners to determine how efficiently they cool.
Can a Heat Pump Receive the ENERGY STAR Label?
Yes. Heat pumps were first eligible for this energy-efficiency label in 1995. In order to qualify for the label, a heat pump must reach a certain standard in three metrics. Two of those have been explained in the questions above: SEER and HSPF. To receive the Energy Star label now, heat pumps must have a SEER of at least 15 and an HSPF of at least 8.5. Energy efficiency rating (EER) is similar to SEER but gauges cooling performance at a single temperature rather than over the course of a season. The ENERGY STAR designation requires an EER of at least 12.
Are Heat Pumps Effective in Cold Weather?
Air-source heat pumps are generally effective down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that point, they become less efficient than a furnace or boiler and certainly will not make the house feel as warm. If the winter temperature in your area regularly drops below 40 degrees, then a heat pump is not recommended. If the winter temperature in your area occasionally drops below 40 degrees, then there are options, such as a hybrid system, that can provide auxiliary heat for colder periods.
Are Heat Pumps Effective in Hot Weather?
Yes. As discussed earlier, heat pumps are essentially air conditioners that can run the cooling cycle in reverse in order to provide heat when needed. In other words, a heat pump and an air conditioner with the same SEER rating will cool your home in hot weather equally well.
Is a Heat Pump More Cost-Effective Than a Furnace?
The answer to this question is relative. As mentioned earlier, heat pumps are effective down to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Within that range, heat pumps are absolutely more efficient than furnaces and boilers. In fact, their efficiency can be as much as 300% that of a furnace. As the temperature drops below that mark, a heat pump becomes less efficient, even to the point of being ineffective.
Is a Heat Pump More Cost-Effective Than an Air Conditioner?
No. Heat pumps and air conditioners with the same SEER rating are approximately equivalent in this regard. You can actually use SEER — and this is true of HSPF as well — to estimate your costs for the season. There are calculators online that do the math for you. You just need to plug in your electricity rate.
Do Heat Pumps Require Seasonal Maintenance?
A common misconception is that since a heat pump combines your heating and cooling solutions it only needs annual maintenance. HVAC experts, however, recommend seasonal maintenance, and your warranty likely requires it in order to remain valid. Furnaces and air conditioners generally only run for one season whereas a heat pump runs for two, and that results in twice as much wear and tear.
How Long Will a Heat Pump Last?
Heat pumps have come a long way over the years. Prior to the 1990s, heat pumps were generally only expected to last about a decade. Modern heat pumps, on the other hand, last 15 to 20 years. Note that statistically, the 15-year mark is when heat pumps drop off in efficiency, and this is the period in which the homeowner will want to begin preparing to replace the unit.
What Is a Mini-Split Heat Pump?
Traditional heat pumps are not much different from traditional furnace and air conditioner setups that are centralized and provide forced air through a duct system. A mini-split is a heat pump that does not use ducts. Instead, It has an integrated blower that pushes conditioned air out into a particular room.
What Is a Geothermal Heat Pump?
Traditional heat pumps use an air source. In other words, they extract heat energy from the outside air and transfer it inside the home. When cooling, they transfer heat from inside the home to the external air. Ground-source, or geothermal, heat pumps work on the same fundamental principles, but heat energy is extracted from and transferred to the earth as opposed to the ambient air. This approach is more energy-efficient but also more expensive to install.
Why Do Some Homes Have a Heat Pump and a Furnace?
Earlier, we posed a scenario in which a winter climate is usually above 40 degrees Fahrenheit but occasionally drops below it, such as in the dead of night. For climates such as these, hybrid heat pumps are used. A hybrid system lets you take advantage of the efficiency of a heat pump most of the time, but a furnace or other auxiliary heating system takes over when additional heating is required.
Your Heat Pump Professionals in Greenwood
Complete Comfort Heating, Air and Plumbing has served Greenwood, Fishers, Carmel and the entire Greater Indianapolis area for nearly 20 years. We specialize in both air-source and geothermal heat pumps. Our team also installs and services a full range of heating and cooling equipment. We have indoor air quality experts, and our licensed plumbers can handle everything from running toilets to advanced commercial projects. Call us today or contact us online to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment at your convenience!