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What is a Heat Pump? A Guide for Metro East Homeowners

Published: October 30, 2013

small_3048480406The conventional way to heat and cool your St. Louis Metro East home is to have an air conditioner for the cooling season and a furnace for the heating season. But did you know that there’s a type of HVAC system that can do both jobs from the same unit? It’s called a heat pump, and it’s a type of system that’s growing in popularity among energy-conscious homeowners. Today we’re going to answer the question, “What is a heat pump?” and talk about how you might benefit from installing one in your home!

What is a heat pump?

Simply put, a heat pump is a type of heating and cooling system that uses electricity to move heat from one place to another. During the cooling season, a heat pump extracts heat from your home’s air and moves it outside (just like an air conditioner). During the heating season, a heat pump takes heat from one of three sources outside (see below) and moves it into your home.

Different kinds of heat pumps

There are three types of heat pumps: air-source, water-source and ground-source. An air-source heat pump works by extracting heat from the air outside and moving it into your home. Believe it or not, the air outside contains a certain amount of heat even when it’s cold outside. An air-source heat pump takes advantage of this existing heat source and uses it to heat your home.

Water- and ground- source heat pumps work similarly to air-source heat pumps, except that they get their heat from below the earth’s surface. These types of heat pumps take advantage of the fact that the temperature underground or below a nearby water source remains consistent throughout the year. As a result, water- and ground-source heat pumps can extract heat from below the earth’s surface and move it into your home.

Year-round energy savings

One of the best things about heat pumps is that you can use them to heat and cool your home with a single system. Because heat pumps are so energy-efficient, they provide your home with year-round energy-savings.

Heat pumps are particularly efficient during the heating season. That’s because, unlike gas furnaces, they do not require the use of natural gas to create heat. Instead, they make use of the existing heat outside and use a small amount of electricity to move that heat into your home.

One thing you’ll want to note about air-source heat pumps is that they begin to lose their ability to extract heat from the air when it’s extremely cold outside. As a result, systems are available with a gas furnace as a backup during those days that it would be inefficient to operate an air-source heat pump.

If you have any questions about what a heat pump is, or if you’d like a heating system serviced or installed in your home, contact Tiger Services, your Metro East plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractor.

photo credit: morberg via photopin cc

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