In recent years, people have purchased more heat pumps than traditional furnaces. This has led to many questions from our customers about whether heat pumps are energy efficient. They are, but to what degree depends on the type you choose to install in your home. We are here to answer the most common questions about this popular alternative. We hope the information below will arm you with knowledge as to whether a heat pump might be the right choice for you.
How Popular Are Heat Pumps?
Heat pumps have a reputation for being more energy efficient than other heating and cooling options. This has led to a spike in their popularity in the last decade. Recently, heat pumps hit a big milestone when they surpassed gas furnaces in annual sales by a significant margin.
How Does a Heat Pump Differ From Other Options?
A heat pump is a heating and cooling system that is basically an air conditioner that both cools and heats. During the summer, it functions similarly to a traditional air conditioning unit, pumping hot air out of the home and then circulating cool air indoors. During the winter, it does the opposite. In these colder months, it actually draws heat into your home.
A typical gas or oil furnace generates its own heat by burning fuel. In contrast, a heat pump does not create heat; rather, it transfers it. With a furnace, for each unit of energy input, it can only output an equal amount of energy. In real practice, though, this is generally not the case. Some fuel is always lost during a furnace’s conversion process, so you never get a 100% fuel-to-heat conversion.
A heat pump’s heat transference system can actually achieve 300% efficiency. With some varieties of heat pumps and in the right weather conditions, an even greater amount of efficiency than this is achievable. That means that even the most efficient furnace cannot compete with a heat pump’s efficiency under normal conditions.
When Is a Heat Pump Not as Efficient?
There’s a misconception that heat pumps are not as efficient in cold weather conditions. It is true that heat pumps do get less efficient during periods when temperatures drop below zero, but that is not the whole story. Many heat pump models operate close to normal in temperatures as low as minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit. Even when it is this cold outside, with a heat pump, heat can still be pulled from the outdoors to warm your home.
Since Raleigh rarely has winters that fall much below freezing, you are probably fine with just a heat pump. Some consumers, however, opt for maximum efficiency by using a system that combines the benefits of both heat pumps and furnaces. This type of system is called dual fuel, and it is a hybrid of a gas furnace and an electric heat pump. The system uses a heat pump that operates much like a central air conditioner in the summer months, transferring hot air out and getting your thermostat to reach the desired temperature. It also does the heavy lifting during the spring and fall when temperatures are mild, and it can still provide maximum efficiency.
In winter, when the fuel pump hits the threshold where it is no longer the most efficient option, the heat pump pauses so that the furnace can kick in. The furnace works to bring your home up to the desired level of warmth before defaulting back to the heat pump, which then serves to help maintain the temperature.
Since a dual fuel system has each method only being utilized when it is the most efficient option, it boosts the lifespan and efficiency of both. With a dual-fuel system, you get the maximum efficiency of both types of heating systems while also increasing their lifespan. On its own, a heat pump is generally good for 15 years with regular maintenance, while a furnace is good for closer to 20. Combine them, and you get a system that can last up to 25 years.
What Type of Heat Pump Is the Most Energy Efficient?
While any variety of heat pumps is going to be more energy efficient than a traditional furnace, some types are more efficient than others.
There are several types of heat pumps:
- Ducted air-source systems
- Ductless air-source systems
- Geothermal systems
- Absorption systems
Ducted air-source systems are the most common variety of heat pumps. These heat pumps collect the heat from the air, ground, or water around your home and then concentrate it for use indoors. These types of heat pumps can reduce your electricity usage by roughly 50% compared to furnaces. They also dehumidify better than a standard central air conditioning unit, resulting in greater efficiency during the summer.
Ductless air-source heat pumps are used in homes that do not have ducts. They are commonly known as mini-split heat pumps. This type of heat pump offers energy savings of 25% to 35% over standard central air conditioning systems.
Geothermal heat pumps achieve higher efficiencies than other varieties of heat pumps through the transference of heat from your home to a nearby water source or the ground. These types of heat pumps can reduce energy consumption by 25% to 50% compared to air source heat pumps.
Absorption heat pumps are a newer variety on the market and use thermal energy, or heat, as their source of energy. This type of heat pump can be driven by various heat sources, including natural gas combustion, solar-heated water, or geothermal-heated water. They are different from mechanical-energy-driven compression heat pumps and can deliver heating efficiency of up to 146%.
Even though all heat pumps are more efficient than traditional furnaces and central air conditioners, those that use absorption technology appear to be the most efficient.
Speak With a Professional About Heat Pump Efficiency
If you are in the Raleigh, NC, area and wonder if a heat pump might be the most energy-efficient option for you, we are happy to answer any of your questions over the phone or in person. Our team has over two decades of experience servicing the heating and cooling needs of the community. Our technicians are certified and well-trained in all manner of HVAC systems as well as heat pumps, and we can help you make the right decision. Not only that, but we are experts at repairs, installations, and routine maintenance, so once you have chosen your system, we’ll be there to help with whatever your system requires in the future.
At Thermo Direct you can also always count on us for our core values of integrity, honesty, and professionalism. We offer transparent pricing and 24-hour emergency service, and we will never upcharge you for products and services that you do not actually need.
To see what heat pumps are available to make your home more energy efficient, call us at Thermo Direct today.