Heat Pump Home Improvement

An Introduction to Heat Pumps

Exterior Heat Exchange Unit
Exterior Heat Exchange Unit

Home improvement is great for two reasons: it increases the value of your home, and at the same time it helps you derive more utility out of your home. Most people tend to focus on the visible factors like interior finishes, garage space, and bathroom/kitchen remodeling, but don’t realize that making big changes to the mechanical systems can be the most profitable of all changes. This is because even a mild upgrade to the HVAC system could require additional ducting and wiring. These are all things a lot of homeowners don’t want to deal with, so there’s value in investing money to improve a system if the expected contribution value is greater than the investment costs.

One such renovation is the addition of a heat pump. Heat pumps are part of the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system. Their basic function is to use outside air to cool or heat your home, depending on what time of year it is. During the winter it would use outside air to warm your house and during the summer it would do the opposite. Naturally, this is only possible in mild climates where you aren’t dealing with sub-zero temperatures, since that would be too demanding energy-wise on the heat pump.

On the most basic level, a heat pump is a mechanical refrigeration system that can either heat or cool a controlled space. There are two main parts of a heat pump: the indoor component is referred to as an air handler, and the outdoor component looks like an air conditioner, but is actually called the heat pump. The market varies based on the geographic location, but the market leader is currently Trane due to their products’ balance of performance and cost.

Interior Heat Pump Air Handler Unit
Interior Heat Pump Unit

If you are struggling to visualize this, just picture a heat pump as a mechanism that moves air from one place to another in a way that controls the temperature in a much more efficient manner. The compressor portion of the heat pump controls the refrigerant that will release and absorb the heat as it is cycled between the indoor and outdoor units. Basically, a heat pump moves heat instead of creating it, which saves you money in the long-run. That’s why prospective homeowners are often excited to see one in their prospective home.

As was stated earlier, heat pumps are only possible in moderate climates where the energy demand isn’t too high. In areas where more extreme low temperatures occur, it could be necessary to have some sort of supplemental heating source, so you’re not left in the freezing cold during a particularly bad winter.

Based on an assessment of your homes current HVAC system and the necessary wiring and ducting to install a heat pump, you can get a quote from your local installer and then decide whether to proceed from there. The installation process can be more complicated depending on what changes needed to be made to your house, and will be given further attention in another article.