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Cleveland HVAC Blog

What are Heat Pumps and How Do They Work?

Posted by Paul Wadsworth on Fri, May 28, 2010 @ 11:23 AM

We get a lot of questions from people about heat pumps.  How do they work?  Can I use one in my home?  The fact is, heat pumps are an attractive alternative to air conditioners and furnaces for two main reasons:  they don’t burn fuel and they’re very energy efficient.  A heat pump can reduce the cost of the electricity you use for heating and cooling by 30-40%.

In the winter, heat pumps take heat from the outside air, water or ground and transfer it into your home.  In warm weather, they transfer warmth from inside your home to the outside.  They use electricity instead of fuel such as gas or oil, so there are no emissions or waste.

There are three main kinds of heat pump:

  • Air source
  • Ground source
  • Water source

Air source heat pumps are the most common.  They draw heat from the outside air into your home in cold weather, and transfer heat back out of your home in warm weather.  Air source heat pumps come with options, too.  If your home has no ductwork, you can install a type of air source heat pump called a mini-split.  Or, if you have radiant floor heat, you can get a unit called a reverse cycle chiller that generates hot and cold water.  Air source heat pumps are most efficient in climates where the winter temperature doesn’t go below 30 degrees.

Ground source heat pumps are also known as geothermal systems. They transfer heat between the ground and your home.  This is one of the most efficient heating and cooling systems available on the market.  In fact, homes with these systems can expect to see energy bills that are 50-70% lower than most other heating systems, and 20-40% lower than standard whole-house air conditioners.

Water source heat pumps are also a form of geothermal, except that they draw heat from ground water or wells instead of the earth.  Like ground source systems, they can be used in more extreme climates.  Good news for our customers here in Northeast Ohio!

A note for anyone who wants to use gas to power a heat pump.  Absorption heat pumps are now available that use natural gas instead of electricity to power the system.  With these units, you can double the efficiency of your gas heating system.

Next time, we’ll go over tips for buying and operating your heat pump to get the greatest energy savings.

Topics: geothermal systems, heating and cooling systems, transfer heat, radiant floor heat

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Welcome! Read our latest posts or explore the archives. You’ll find tips for how to maintain your HVAC equipment to discussions about indoor air quality, conserving energy and saving money, and information about emerging technologies in heating and air conditioning. Bookmark our blog.

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