While many people rely on furnaces to keep them warm, heat pumps are gaining in popularity. These systems are an efficient and environmentally friendly way to keep your home comfortable. Since they use outdoor air, can they keep you warm in the winter? Find out why heat pumps are still an excellent option for your home, even during those colder months.
Types of Heat Pumps
There are several types of heat pumps. While the basic operation of the pumps may be the same, there are some differences in how they absorb and distribute air for your home.
Air-source heat pumps (ASHP) take the heat from the surrounding air to transfer into your home. They are versatile and well-suited for a wide range of climates. ASHPs are the most cost-effective, easy-to-install, and energy-efficient heating systems. They work best in moderate environments. While their efficiency may decrease in frigid temperatures, they are still the most reliable heating option available.
Ground source heat pumps, also known as geothermal heat pumps, draw heat from the ground through loops or wells. These pumps provide stable and consistent warm air since the soil’s temperature remains constant. These heat pumps are usually found in colder climates. Since these systems are more complex, they are more expensive than other heating and cooling systems.
Water source heat pumps use water sources, such as lakes or ponds, to exchange heat. While they are not as prevalent as air or ground source heat pumps, you can usually find them in areas with a large water concentration.
Ductless mini-split systems have an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units. They can heat and cool your home without ductwork. These systems are ideal for homes that require retrofits but lack existing duct systems.
Absorption heat pumps are different from traditional ones. They use natural gas or solar energy to operate the refrigeration cycle. Alternative energy sources like waste-generated heat can also power these pumps. However, they are more complex, expensive, and less commonly used in residential applications.
Hybrid or dual-fuel heat pumps combine a traditional heating system, such as a furnace and a heat pump. These systems switch between the two based on the outdoor conditions. They perform better in colder weather.
Parts of the Heat Pump
A heat pump moves heat from one location to another. This system has four main components: the evaporator, compressor, condenser, and expansion valve.
The evaporator is located outside. It will absorb heat from the outdoor air, even in cold winter conditions. A coil also allows the refrigerant to absorb warmth and evaporate into a gas. The compressor is an integral part of the system. It raises the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant. In turn, that allows for heat release during the condensation stage. The condenser contains a coil that allows the refrigerant to release heat into the indoor air. Finally, the expansion valve is responsible for lowering the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant.
All these components work together to provide warmth during the winter months and cool air during the summer. How do these parts work together? There are several stages that a heat pump must go through to move the warm air into your home.
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
Heat pumps are used to both heat and cool your home. They transfer heat from one location to another with the help of refrigerants. The refrigerant cycle has four stages: compression, condensation, expansion, and evaporation.
During the compression stage, the refrigerant gas is compressed. In turn, that raises the temperature and pressure in the unit. After that, the gas moves into the condenser. That releases heat to the indoor air as it condenses into a liquid.
The expansion valve is used to lower the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant. At this stage, it will evaporate as it passes the indoor evaporator coil. This evaporation process absorbs heat from the outside air, repeating the cycle. All that heat absorbed from the outdoors will be transferred to the interior through a fan.
Unlike other systems that use fossil fuels, heat pumps use electricity to move heat. Many homeowners appreciate this environmentally friendly benefit of heat pumps.
Heat Pumps in Winter
How does a heat pump absorb warmth from the air in the winter? Heat pumps can experience a few challenges when extracting heat from the cold outdoor air during the winter. Despite the low temperatures, modern heat pumps are specifically designed to operate in these harsh conditions.
The evaporator coil is designed to absorb thermal energy from the cold air. This absorption starts the refrigeration cycle to transfer the captured heat indoors. Some heat pump systems use supplemental heating elements when the outdoor air temperature drops. These elements are usually electric resistance heaters. They provide an extra boost of warmth to make sure you have consistent and comfortable indoor temperatures. This supplementary feature keeps you warm even in the harshest winter weather.
Since heat pumps remain outside, there is the potential for ice buildup on the outdoor unit, especially on the evaporator coil. As the heat pump extracts heat from the cold air, moisture can freeze on the coil. Many modern heat pumps have a defrost cycle. Sensors will put the pump into defrost mode when ice begins to form. During this time, the refrigerant flow is reversed. In turn, the warm air moves from the indoors to melt ice on the outdoor unit. These methods allow you to remain warm in your home, even during the chilliest conditions.
What Can Affect the Performance of the Heat Pump?
The sizing and installation can impact the performance of a heat pump system. Along with that, choosing the right heat pump size is essential for maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures. An undersized unit may need help to meet heating demands. In turn, that can lead to increased energy consumption and wear on the system.
On the other hand, an oversized unit may cycle on and off too frequently. That can result in unnecessary wear and reduced efficiency. You may want to hire a professional to assess your square footage, insulation quality, and regional climate to find the appropriate size for your living space.
Keep in mind that different types of heat pumps are better suited for specific climates. For example, air-source heat pumps may struggle in extremely cold temperatures while ground-source heat pumps may perform better in maintaining heat. When you know your local climate, you can choose a system that meets the demands of the environment. With that, you can count on its reliable performance throughout the year.
If you are looking for a reliable HVAC company in Jacksonville that can help you with heat pump installation, maintenance, and repair services, J&W Heating and Air is ready for the job. We are a NATE-certified company that has been serving the community since 1966. Our services include HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services. Plus, we can help with ductwork services, thermostats, indoor air quality solutions, zone control systems, and home energy audits. Whether you need help with heat pump installations, repairs, or other services in Jacksonville, call J&W Heating and Air today!