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Can a Heat Pump Manage in Our Winters?

heating-cooling-housesThe winters here can be rough, although not at the deep-chill levels of many midwestern and northern states. Our homes absolutely need to have heating systems to manage the winters, but we don’t always have to rely on the natural gas furnaces that are the most common central heaters.

One of the alternatives to using a furnace for forced-air heating is a heat pump. A heat pump works much like an air conditioner.

Wait, I can’t use an air conditioner as a heat system!

That’s true. But a heat pump can act as both an air conditioner and a heater. It’s two functions in a single HVAC system. Like an AC, a heat pump circulates refrigerant between indoor and outdoor coils, and the refrigerant evaporates and condenses to move heat from inside the house to deposit it outdoors. But, unlike an air conditioner, a heat pump can switch the direction it works, so that it moves heat from outside and deposits it inside. All it takes is an adjustment to the thermostat, and the heat pump switches from cooling mode to heating mode.

But I need heat when it’s cold outside. Where is a heat pump getting that heat?

We understand your confusion. Plenty of people are surprised to hear that a heat pump draws heat from the outside in order to bring it indoors. How can there be any heat outside when it’s cold?

Here’s a way to think about it. The outdoor air almost always feels cooler to us, because our body temperatures are kept steady at 98.6°F, so we’ll always lose a bit of heat to the outside weather unless its over 100°F. When it’s cold outside, it feels to us like there is no heat at all.

But there’s always heat in the air, no matter how cold. To harvest heat from the air, you only have to run something colder than the air temperature, and the heat flows to it. If it’s 30°F outside, refrigerant that’s colder than 30°F will absorb heat, which can then be moved indoors and released.

Do heat pumps have the ability to lower their refrigerant temperatures to levels cold enough to absorb heat from outside in our temperatures? Absolutely! The refrigerant passing through the outdoor coils of a heat pump can be as low as 15°F. And newer heat pumps keep getting better all the time, which is why more and more of them are ending up in homes in the area. Where a heat pump would once lose efficiency when the temperature dropped below freezing, now it can handle almost any cold day we experience.

However, a heat pump is not always the best choice for every home and situation. Make sure that you schedule HVAC services with our professionals when you’re considering a new system installation. It’s our job to see you have a heater and air conditioner capable of delivering comfort to your house all around the year.

Wm. Henderson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Inc. serves Delaware County & The Main Line, PA. Let us help you with a heat pump or other HVAC installation.

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