Is A Heat Pump Right for your Columbus Area Home?

October 8, 2013

Selecting the best heating and cooling solutions for your Columbus area home is a weighty decision which will account for about half of the monthly energy bill and influence the home-comfort experience from day to day.

Comparing viable home comfort systems deserves prudent forethought to avoid any disconcerting afterthought. Explore the strengths and deficiencies of a heat pump designed for performance, and you may have found your total home comfort solution for efficient heating and cooling rolled up in one very nice system.

Heat Pump Home Heating

Great energy efficiency and reliable performance are two long-standing traits of heat pump systems. Understanding the basic operation of heat pumps will make clear why these systems are not only practical solutions for performance and energy efficiency, but effective heating and cooling solutions for homes in the greater Columbus climate.

Heat energy naturally moves from a warmer to a cooler space. Heat pumps are engineered to manipulate and enhance this natural process, just like a refrigerator removes heat to keep perishables cold. The process of a typical air-source heat pump for extracting heat or releasing heat inside the home is as follows:

  • A signal for heating or cooling is received from the thermostat.
  • Refrigerant is pumped through copper tubing between the heat pump’s components: indoor and outdoor heat-exchange coils, an expansion device which regulates refrigerant flow and a reversing valve which gives the heat pump its ability to heat and cool a home by changing the direction the refrigerant flows through the system.
  • Refrigerant is placed under pressure changes to manipulate its ability to move heat (extract or release) while it changes phases between gas and liquid states.
  • When the heat pump is in heating mode, the refrigerant inside the indoor heat-exchange coil is condensed into a high-pressure liquid, which makes it extremely hot, and heats the airflow pulled across the coil by the air handler.
  • At the outdoor heat-exchange coil, the liquid refrigerant vaporizes under low pressure and extracts heat energy from the air with the assistance of the outside air handler.
  • This process will repeat for long cycles to maintain near constant indoor temperatures for exceptional comfort.

Heat Pump Strengths

Heat pumps deliver many advantages for homeowners seeking a practical heating and cooling solution. One of the great strengths of new high-efficiency heat pumps with advanced features is their ability to extract heat energy from outside air even when the outside temperature is well below the freezing point. These are a few of the advanced features which make this possible:

  • Variable-speed compressors use substantially less electricity, and deliver greater performance for preparing refrigerant for optimal heat exchange.
  • Re-engineered heat-exchange coils optimize heat exchange with ridged surfaces which expand overall surface area with minimal or no increase in coil size.
  • Variable-speed air handlers provide optimal airflow for both home comfort and refrigerant heat transfer.

You may have recognized that all of the components are geared toward optimizing refrigerant performance. This is further enhanced by the refrigerant itself, which is high-efficiency R410A, an ozone-friendly refrigerant with greater heat-exchange performance in new heat-pump systems compared to older heat pumps using R22 refrigerant.

Another great advantage of heat-pump systems is their ability to provide inexpensive hot water by using an add-on heat exchanger, a desuperheater. The desuperheater utilizes recovered super-heat from the heat-exchange coils to heat water up to three times more efficiently than electric storage water heating.

Heat Pump Deficiencies

Unlike a furnace that burns fuel to produce heat at specific BTU capacity regardless of surrounding temperatures, heat pump performance relies on the temperatures outside and inside the home in relation to heat extraction and heat release. For this reason, heat pumps have an Achilles heel — extremely cold outside temperatures.

Heat pump systems require backup heating, which is typically in the form of inefficient electric-resistance heating elements. When the home’s heating load exceeds the heat pump’s heating capacity (the balance point), the thermostat signals backup heating to engage. While it’s true that new high-efficiency heat pumps can provide comfortable heating when temperatures dip near single digits, efficiency still falls and the system works too hard.

A nice solution to this issue is a dual-fuel system — a hybrid heat pump and furnace combination. Home heating is provided by the more efficient heat-pump system until the balance point is reached, and then the furnace is engaged. This is a win-win system for comfort and energy savings.

For assistance selecting the right heat pump or other home-comfort solution for your Columbus area home, contact Indoor Solutions, Inc. today.

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