By now, you probably know that a residential heat pump has many benefits, not the least of which is its ability to save you money on your energy bill. With the ability to heat and cool a home without burning costly fuel, it can have an impressive impact on your yearly bottom line.
A big part of the appeal of a heat pump is in its ability to heat individual areas of the home, avoiding using energy on areas that are not currently occupied. This is another element that can help homeowners save a great deal of money, but it also leads them to ask whether or not a residential heat pump can actually heat an entire home. Read on to discover the answer.
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is an advanced method of heating technology that utilizes refrigerant coils to transfer heat from place to place. This immediately sets them apart from every other method of home heating: heat pumps do not actually need to generate heat to get the job done. Instead, they utilize ambient heat that already exists in the environment to render the home more comfortable. Even when it’s extremely cold outside, there is always some ambient heat energy in the environment, and the refrigerant coils absorb this so it can be transferred into the air and vented into the home.
Some heat pumps, as opposed to using the heat in the air, make use of underground heat. These are called geothermal heat pumps, and they are excellent for areas where the air becomes cold enough to interfere with the operation of an air source heat pump. Even so, geothermal heat pumps operate in much the same way as other heat pumps.
How Do They Work?
There are several parts to a heat pump: an outdoor unit, an indoor unit, the aforementioned refrigerant coils, a compressor, and several valves for controlling the pressure of the refrigerant. The compressor is powered by electricity, which is the only energy cost that a heat pump will have. When it’s activated, it pressurizes the refrigerant chemical that is contained within the coils. When the refrigerant is pumped through the coils in liquid form, it absorbs ambient heat energy from the air (or from the ground, in the case of a geothermal heat pump).
The coils then pump the now heated refrigerant into the indoor unit, where the heat can be vented directly into the room. Generally, a heat pump is designed for a single area of the house, rather than the entire home. This means, in order to use a residential heat pump to heat an entire home, you may need several of them: one for each region.
What Are Their Benefits?
We’ve already mentioned one of the main benefits of utilizing a heat pump as opposed to another type of heating method: they do not need to generate their own heat. This can save a great deal of cost, as most heating systems require some type of fuel source (the most common are natural gas, propane, oil, and wood.). The government’s energy.gov website goes into detail about the potential cost savings.
There are several other benefits, as well. Without a complicated system of ducts, heat pumps are easier to maintain than other heating methods. They’re also a good deal more versatile; with a traditional heater, these ducts must already be in place. Otherwise, you’ll have to shell out for a costly installation before you can effectively heat your home. With a heat pump, the installation can be performed in virtually any type of building, whether it’s old or new.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a heat pump, however, is its versatility. Since it’s designed to move heat rather than generate it, it can also be used for cooling. Just as when it’s in heating mode it can transfer heat from the outside in, it can be reversed to transfer heat energy from inside the home, back outside. This means that not only will a heat pump save you a great deal on your heating bill, but it will also do the same on your cooling bill during the heat of the summer.
Are There Any Downsides?
Heat pumps do have a few disadvantages that are worth considering as well. For example, they can be extremely expensive to install. For many homeowners, this is a non-issue since they will make up those costs over time through savings on their energy bills. However, it’s a factor that can’t be ignored. It also means that it’s crucial that the contractor doing the installation is experienced with this type of technology, as any error they make can be costly. Look for a company like Entek HVAC, whose highly trained, skilled contractors will be sure to get it right the first time.
The other major downside of utilizing a heat pump will only come if you live in an extremely cold climate. If the weather is well below freezing, the heat pump may struggle to gather enough heat energy to bring the home to a comfortable temperature. For this reason, many homeowners have a traditional heater as a backup that is only used on the coldest days of the year.
So, Can They Heat Your Entire Home?
It’s true that heat pumps are generally designed to heat one area at a time, and indeed, this is part of their appeal. However, it’s definitely possible for a residential heat pump to heat an entire home. Nowadays, larger, whole-house heat pumps are definitely available. It’s also possible to opt for several smaller ones, spread out through the different regions of the home. With these, the homeowner can make the choice to activate only the ones that are needed at the moment. This will allow for even further cost savings.