All about electric heat pumps

Whether you are buying a new home or considering changes to your existing home, an electric heat pump may be the best solution for your home heating and cooling needs -- especially in our desert climate.

A heat pump is highly efficient because it doesn't manufacture the heat it distributes. Instead, it finds heat in the outside air and "pumps" or "moves" it into your home in the winter.

Heat pump benefits

  • A heat pump can save you as much as 30% on heating costs when compared to a gas furnace and provides year-round comfort.
  • A high-efficiency electric heat pump does a great job of providing continuous comfort. Gas furnaces often blast certain areas with heat causing uncomfortable hot spots. Heat pumps provide a more continuous flow of heat and even temperature.

How heat pumps work

A heat pump works by simply moving heat in or out of your home, depending on whether you set your system to heating or cooling. The only energy used is the relatively small amount of electricity it takes to transfer the heat. Heat Pump Diagram

  1. Compressor: This increases the pressure of the refrigerant so that it will accept the maximum amount of heat from the air.
  2. Condenser: Coils that move heat to or from the outside air.
  3. Evaporator: Coils that move heat to or from the air inside the home.
  4. Air handler: Fan that blows the air into the ducts of the home. Components 1, 2, 3 and 4 are found in all standard air conditioners.
  5. Reversing valve:Changes the heat pump from air conditioning to heating, and vice versa. This is not part of the thermostat.

During the mild winters in metropolitan Phoenix, when temperatures rarely dip below freezing, there's plenty of heat in the air you can use. In summer, it pumps heat from inside the house to the outside, providing efficient cooling.

Heat pumps work using heat transference. That is the principle whereby heat seeks equilibrium when it comes in contact with cold. In other words, heat goes to cold. For instance, when you're holding a cold can of soda, your hand feels like it's getting cold. But actually, the heat is leaving your hand and heating up the soda.

How to buy a heat pump

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating is an important consideration when looking for an electric heat pump. The SEER represents how efficiently a unit operates. Typically, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently it operates and the more energy you save.

Along with the SEER rating, you need to determine what size the electric heat pump needs to be. A contractor can help you with this. Your contractor should take into consideration the square footage of your home, the amount of ceiling and wall insulation, window area and other crucial variables.

Keep in mind that the lowest price does not always mean the best deal. Service, proper sizing and quality of insulation make a difference in long-term operating costs. Ask your contractor questions, because all heat pumps are not alike.

To find a contractor, call the SRP Certified Contractor Program at (602) 274-6808 for a referral.

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