Understanding a Heat Pump’s Efficiency Claims

November 20, 2020

Finding an efficient way to heat your home is of utmost importance. After all, a typical winter in Olathe is full of many long, cold days that can leave your home quite chilly and uncomfortable. If you’re using an inefficient heat source to keep your home warm, you could find your heart sink when you receive your utility bill.

That’s the main thing that makes a heat pump so intriguing. Claiming up to 300% efficiency, a heat pump almost seems too good to be true. Fortunately, the hype surrounding heat pumps matches the reality, meaning that these are a great option for heating your home.

How Does a Typical Furnace Work?

In a typical furnace, the key to heating is changing energy from one form to another. Natural gas, heating oil, propane, or electricity are consumed by the furnace and converted to heat, either in the form of a flame or a hot electric coil.

Although most modern furnaces are fairly efficient at transforming energy, the transformation process is still inherently inefficient because some of the energy is lost as light energy instead of heat energy. Therefore, keeping a home warm requires a lot of expensive natural gas or electricity, resulting in the unfortunate utility bills you receive.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Although a heat pump also transforms some energy from one form to another, a heat pump uses it for a far different purpose. In a heat pump from Mike Bryant Heating & Cooling, electrical energy is converted by the compressor into mechanical energy to allow the compressor to change the refrigerant’s pressure. This change in pressure allows the refrigerant to efficiently absorb heat from the outside air and then deliver that heat to the inside coil where it can work to change the air temperature.

Since, in this case, the refrigerant is doing the work of transferring heat, the energy input that’s required from the compressor is much lower than the energy input that’s required from a burner or heating element in a typical furnace. Ultimately, a heat pump can use much less electricity to create the same result: a warm and comfortable home.

Wait, the Air Doesn’t Feel Warm

When you’re bundling up in a coat, scarf, and gloves to head outside, the word “warm” is not the first word you would choose to describe the weather. How, then, does a heat pump efficiently pull heat from the outside air to heat your home? The answer is in the science of refrigerant.

When refrigerant changes from a liquid to a gas, it absorbs heat. Although many compounds behave in this way, the refrigerant used in a heat pump is specifically engineered to perform this action incredibly efficiently. To get a refrigerant to evaporate, all you have to do is increase its pressure, which is the one thing that the compressor is really good at.

This efficient reaction means that the refrigerant can get far colder than the coldest day in Olathe. Then, thanks to thermodynamics, the higher concentration of heat in the outside air moves to the lower concentration of heat in the refrigerant, and you suddenly have an efficient way to heat your home.

Are There Any Caveats?

The incredible refrigerant properties mean that a heat pump can work as it’s designed for a very low temperature. Under extreme conditions, though, you may have issues with ice forming on the refrigerant line because it’s so cold and because it’s condensing water vapor that’s in the air. If this occurs, you’ll need to run a backup heating system to ensure your home stays warm.

The good news is that this all happens automatically, so you don’t have to give it a second thought. Plus, high-efficiency heat pumps typically only take a few minutes to thaw, meaning that this backup heating system will only be used sparingly. Other than that, there truly are no drawbacks to using a heat pump.

Helping You Understand Complex Topics

At Mike Bryant Heating & Cooling, when we complete a project at you house, we work hard to explain what we’re doing while we’re doing it so you understand what you’re paying for. Whether we’re installing a heat pump, maintaining an air conditioner, or repairing indoor air quality equipment, you can count on us to deal with you in an honest and upfront manner. This approach has helped us thrive for over 35 years and achieve an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. For more info on heat pumps, feel free to contact us at Mike Bryant Heating & Cooling today.

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