When it gets cold in Pennsylvania, it’s important to have a reliable source of heat. Most people also want to be mindful of energy usage during the winter since utility bills have the potential to skyrocket. Whether you’re building a new home or are in an older home and are considering having your existing heating unit replaced, you may be wondering whether you should get a furnace or a heat pump. Both types of heaters can keep you warm and comfortable, but heat pumps are known to be more efficient. Plus, they can cool and warm your home, so they’re effective throughout the year.
Moving Instead of Generating Heat
Perhaps the biggest difference between a furnace and a heat pump has to do with how they warm your home. A furnace actually generates heat and then moves that heat throughout your home. In contrast, a heat pump simply transfers heat from the environment to your home. Heat pumps don’t have to make any heat since they can absorb heat from natural sources. Generating heat can take a considerable amount of energy, so this is why heat pumps are known to be more efficient than their counterparts.
Where the Heat Comes From
Many people wonder where heat pumps find heat. After all, you need a heat pump to warm your home in the winter when the temperatures are low. In our region, temperatures could even be below freezing. How can there be outdoor heat in these conditions?
The answer has to do with the fact that heat is a form of energy. It can be very cold outside in the winter, but there is still a bit of heat that can be found.
Heat pumps rely on refrigerant to transfer heat from one place to another. That refrigerant runs through a closed loop of pipes. Those pipes come into your home so that the refrigerant can release heat, and when the pipes run outside, the refrigerant can absorb heat. Refrigerant can be quite cold under the right conditions, and it’s able to absorb heat, or thermal energy, as long as the surrounding environment is warmer than the refrigerant. In other words, the temperature outside can be freezing, and the heat pump will still work as long as there’s a disparity in the environmental temperature and the temperature of the refrigerant. There always will be that temperature difference since refrigerant can be quite cold.
Up until this point, we’ve been discussing the “environmental” temperature. What does this exactly mean? Well, there are two main types of heat pumps. One type is an air-source heat pump. It gets heat from the air outside your home. Another type is a geothermal heat pump, also called a ground-source heat pump. This system gets heat from under the ground, where the temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year. Sometimes, these piping systems go about six feet deep, and depending on the situation, they can go even deeper than that. Under the ground, temperatures generally hover between 50 and 60 degrees, no matter how hot or cold it might be above ground.
It’s true that older heat pumps may not have been able to handle the load that well when the temperatures were extremely low and remained that way for an extended time. With recent advancements, though, modern heat pumps can be used in very cold regions like ours.
Heat Pumps Work in the Summer
Another big difference between a furnace and a heat pump is that a furnace is only used to warm your home. A heat pump, on the other hand, can be used as both a heater and an air conditioner. You’ll get a lot more use out of the heat pump than a furnace for this reason.
We just described how the refrigerant in the system takes heat from the outdoors and brings it into your home in the winter. In the summer, the opposite happens. The refrigerant absorbs heat from your home and releases it outside. This is similar to how air conditioners work.
Heat Pump Experts
If you’d like more information about having a heat pump installed at your place in Drexel Hill, contact us at O'Brien Heating & Air Conditioning. We also offer installation, maintenance, and repair services for traditional heaters and air conditioners, and we have experience with duct cleaning and air purifiers. Call today to schedule an appointment.