If you're building a new home, then a heat pump is an efficient and cost-effective option for keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Heat pumps are sometimes referred to as reversible air conditioning systems since they work on similar principles. Transporting heat from one area to another is a highly efficient mode of operation, making them superior to furnaces in many ways.
Although heat pumps can work in almost any environment, they are most effective in certain climates. Understanding how the weather around your home affects a heat pump's operation can help you decide if they are right for your situation.
Heat Pumps and the Refrigerant Cycle
You may be familiar with the concept of a refrigerant cycle from the operation of your air conditioner. With a traditional air conditioner, cold liquid refrigerant absorbs heat from your home and transports that heat to the outside environment. Heat pumps can reverse their refrigerant flow in the winter, transporting ambient heat into your home.
Where does this extra heat come from the winter? The answer comes from the concept of a heat differential. Although the outside temperature may be cold, the refrigerant is still colder. The refrigerant absorbs whatever heat it can scavenge from the outside air and transports that heat inside to keep your home feeling cozy.
The Impact of Climate On Your Heat Pump
Your heat pump's ability to operate in freezing temperatures depends mostly on its efficiency. High-efficiency heat pumps can function in cold climates, but the typical heat pump works best when outside temperatures don't fall too far below freezing. As temperatures drop, some heat pumps may struggle to pull enough heat from the surrounding air to function effectively.
However, when operating in their proper temperature range, heat pumps can potentially reduce your home's HVAC costs compared to traditional heating methods. Although their running costs are about the same in the summer, you can realize significant savings during the winter.
Using a Heat Pump in Cold Climates
If you live in an area where the temperature occasionally drops below most heat pumps' efficiency range, you still have options. In addition to installing a high-efficiency heat pump, you can also use a secondary heater. Secondary heaters work by turning on when your heat pump cannot provide sufficient warmth to maintain your temperature setpoint.
Although secondary heaters are not as efficient as the heat pump itself, they only turn on when exterior temperatures become too cold. Unless you experience frigid temperatures for much of the winter, you can often save money by combining a heat pump with a secondary electric heater. Discussing your options with a professional HVAC contractor is the best way to determine what's right for you.
For more information, reach out to a local HVAC contractor.