How Energy Efficient is a Heat Pump?

Since a heat pump is able to heat as well as cool homes very efficiently, this system has grown in popularity in recent times. While most people are aware of how air conditioners and furnaces function, not many are familiar with the working of a heat pump. Here we provide you information about what a heat pump is, how it works and how energy-efficient it can be.

Every homeowner is interested in knowing how they can save some money on their energy bills. If you choose a heat pump with good energy ratings, that can save you a substantial amount. When you install a unit that is Energy Star rates, you can also qualify for a tax credit of $300- This is a definite win-win situation.

Like an air conditioning system, a heat pump also works on the principles of refrigeration rather than on the principle of fuel combustion, for both, its heating and cooling functions. In the cooling mode, the system functions just like a replacement AC. It extracts heat from the indoor spaces and expels it outdoors. However, when it is moved to the heating mode, this process is reversed. It then draws heat even from the colder air outdoors and uses that to warm the interior space.

Factors That Energy-Efficiency of a Heat Pump Depend On

Whether or not your heating system replacement will be able to help you save on your energy bills is dependent on a range of factors such as:

    The climate in your area Type of fuel used in your home Level of insulation in your home The existence of other energy-efficient installations on your property

heat pump isn’t an ideal option in regions that have a cold climate. They save significantly more energy when they are functioning in their heating mode. However, when there is a drop in the outdoor temperatures, your house requires more heat; unfortunately, a heat pump doesn’t function very efficiently when the outdoor temperatures are lower; and this is when you would require a supplementary system to provide additional heat. This also means you end up paying more for electrical heating.

If you live in a region with a colder climate, and natural gas is available, the smarter thing to do is to use a traditional forced air, air-conditioning system. Natural gas is always a more expensive and less-efficient fuel compared to electricity (though some exceptions do exist).

However, in regions like the Northeast where people typically use electric resistance heat or fuel oil, a heat pump can offer significant savings. Though electric resistance furnaces are cheaper to install compared to a heat pump, the latter is able to deliver 1.5 – 2.5 times more heat using the same amount of energy, based on what the climate in the area is, the size of the house and type of system used. The correct way to identify which form of heating and cooling is best for your home; you would have to compare the unit’s purchase price against its efficiency, the fuel cost and the heating and cooling load requirements of your home. The aspect to keep in view is that if you are buying a heat pump as a furnace replacement, you may also have to replace the ductwork as well as a heat pump generally requires a larger duct.

Efficiency Ratings of Heat Pumps

When there is talk about the energy-efficiency of a heat pump, there are certain ratings that have to be taken into account. All the cooling and heating appliances sold in the United States have the Federal “Energy Guide” label- this is a rating for the energy-efficiency of the heating and cooling modes; the ratings relay on a relative scale and they indicate how that particular unit compares to other similar products with higher and lower efficiency levels.

About SEER and HSPF Ratings

Highly sophisticated testing is used in arriving at both these ratings and they are a reflection of performance of the unit, over the entire season. HVAC system manufacturers generally use 2 different measurement indexes:

SEER- Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating

This rating evaluates the heat pump’s efficiency when it’s in the AC mode. The ratio calculation is done based on the total amount of cooling that’s generated (which is measured in BTUs). This is divided by the electricity consumed over the course of the cooling season. If the system has a higher SEER rating, it means the heat pump is more energy-efficient. In the US, it is required by law that all AC systems have a minimum SEER of 13.

HSPF- Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

With reference to warming a house, the HSPF is the more important number. This is similar to SEER; but it evaluates any additional usage of energy that has taken place, such as any backup heat requirements or defrosting the unit in the winter time. An energy star certified heat pump will always have higher SEER and HSPF compared to standard models. This makes them about 8 % more efficient than all standard models and 20% more efficient than the older models.

Efficient Heat Pump- The Different Options

Most people are curious to know what makes a particular heat pump model more energy-efficient than any others. The simple answer is that there are a number of options on the market today, which use the latest technology to heat up & deliver the conditioned air. The high-efficiency heat pumps are equipped with variable-capacity controls. Instead of operating the system at top capacity round the clock, the control system coordinates the blower and the compressor to adjust the cooling and heating requirements of your home, at any given time. Since they rarely operate at full speed, they tend to be much quieter and save you a significant amount of money in the long term.

Other Factors that Matter

Aside from all these aspects, the other factors that add to the energy-efficiency of the heat pump are:

    Zoned Heating & Cooling Two-Speed Compressors Variable-Speed Motors Heat pumps with a “desuperheater” Backup Burners

Finding a good and energy-efficient heat pump system that will also save you money in the long term is about conducting some research, getting advice from experts and ensuring that aspects such as insulation and maintenance are taken care of.