Most older homes with central heating have gas furnaces. And if your hvac system breaks down you may be considering replacing your existing gas furnace. Investing in a new furnace or complete split hvac system is a big expense and there are alternative options that can make it more affordable to upgrade. Heat pumps are a higher efficiency alternative with often sizable local municipal rebates. And if you select an even higher efficiency heat pump you may qualify for federal cash-back. Check out Upton’s article HVAC System Tax Credits to learn more ways to save.
How Much Money You’ll Save Annually
Reliable heat doesn’t have to come from a central heating system. Heat pumps are a popular alternative to gas-fueled heating systems. While heat pumps are technically a type of furnace, they don’t work like a typical forced-air furnace. In fact, they resemble a central air conditioner in reverse. The exact mechanics of their function depends on which type of heat pump you install. According to the U.S. Department of Energy:
Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to move heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house and during the cooling season, heat pumps move heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors. Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can provide equivalent space conditioning at as little as one-quarter of the cost of operating conventional heating or cooling appliances.
For homes in moderate climates, heat pumps can be an energy-efficient alternative to an air conditioner or furnace.
Today, there are three types of heat pumps: air-to-air, water source, and geothermal. Each kind of heat pump, respectively, draws heat from the air, water, or ground around a home and concentrates and transforms it for indoor use. As it stands now, air-source heat pumps are the most common type. These heat pumps use the outside air to condense heat before transferring it into the home, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air.
Modern, efficient heat pumps can reduce a home’s electricity need and heating requirements by approximately 50% compared to electric resistance heating like furnaces and baseboard heaters. Additionally, high-efficiency heat pumps also pull moisture out of the air better than air conditioners, which means more efficient cooling during the hot summer months.
Popular throughout the United States, air-source heat pumps have recently become a viable heating alternative for colder regions.
Heat Pump Energy Transfer Source
A heat pump has two main components: an outdoor unit and an indoor air handler. The outdoor unit looks like an air conditioner but is actually a heat pump. It contains a compressor unit, which works to circulate refrigerant throughout the system. The refrigerant absorbs and releases heat as it moves between outdoor and indoor units.
Heat exchange in a heat pump can draw from three different sources:
- Ground Source. Ground-source heat pumps have a complex network of pipes set into the ground. These pipes absorb heat and send it inside to the house.
- Air-Source. On the other hand, air-source heat pumps use an outdoor compressor unit that looks like a central air unit. This unit draws air in, pulls the heat out, and sends it to the indoor portion of the home’s heat pump, which then disperses the heat through the house via a heat pump.
Air source is the most common heat pump-generally it consists of one indoor air handler and outside heat pump condenser-referred to collectively as “heat pump split system”. But in recent years ductless mini splits have become increasingly popular offering a variety of space options in homes. For older homes or non-traditional work or living spaces-mini splits may provide temperature zoning without ductwork or controls.