July 2, 2023
Heat Pump Installation in Fox Valley, WI

As most residents here in Fox Valley, WI, know, energy efficiency is a priority if you want to keep your monthly bills under control. For that reason, more and more homeowners in the area are reaching out to the team here at Black-Haak to ask about heat pumps instead of central air conditioning systems. Most know that a heat pump offers excellent energy efficiency, but some may not always be clear on how they work and how they differ from conventional central AC systems. So, we’ve put together this guide that explains how a heat pump functions and the specific differences that set them apart from central AC systems. Let’s get started!

What Is a Heat Pump?

As its name suggests, a heat pump is a system that moves heat from one place to another and functions by taking advantage of some basic scientific principles. One is that heat naturally gravitates toward cold. This is known as the second law of thermodynamics and is also why the insulation in your home is as important as it is. It’s what resists that natural process to keep hot air outside in the summer and inside in the winter.

A heat pump doesn’t consume any fuel to move heat from one place to another. Instead, it uses an electrically powered compressor and fans to manipulate the temperature of a refrigerant. It’s this refrigerant that gets pumped from place to place, carrying heat along with it.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

To cool your home, a heat pump uses electricity to compress refrigerant into a hot gas and then expands it into a cold liquid. When the refrigerant is in its liquid form, it travels to a unit inside your home where it passes through an evaporator coil.

There, the heat pump uses a blower motor to pass warm air from inside your home over the coil. That’s where the second law of thermodynamics takes over. The heat energy in the air then gravitates toward the cold refrigerant. As the refrigerant absorbs the heat, it turns into a low-pressure warm vapor, and the air cools down and recirculates into your home.

The low-pressure warm vapor travels outside to a compressor. The compressor raises the gas’s pressure, which also amplifies its heat. Afterward, the gas reaches an average temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That super-hot gas now travels through another set of coils called condenser coils. Since the gas’s temperature is hotter than the outside air temperature, it can again take advantage of the second law of thermodynamics—this time in reverse.

The outdoor unit of a heat pump utilizes a large fan that circulates outside air through the condenser coil, allowing the refrigerant to shed its heat. As it does, it condenses into a cool, high-pressure liquid. Then it passes through an expansion valve, where it turns back into a cold, low-pressure liquid vapor mixture, so the cooling cycle can begin again.

Here’s the thing that surprises most homeowners, though. The process above is all but identical to the way a conventional central air conditioner works to cool your home. This is because an air conditioner is a type of heat pump that relies on the same cycling process to carry heat out of your home to cool it. You may be surprised to know that this is also how your home’s refrigerator works!

So, What Makes a Heat Pump Different?

One difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner is that a heat pump can operate in reverse. That’s because it has a reversing valve that can change the refrigerant flow through the system. This means a heat pump can also heat your home in the winter, which a central air conditioner cannot.

Since they don’t burn fuel to create heat, heat pumps are far more efficient than even the best furnaces today. A heat pump can operate at up to 400% efficiency levels in the winter, compared to about 98.5% for the most efficient gas-powered furnace available.

And although they’re not nearly that efficient in cooling mode, heat pumps regularly achieve efficiency levels as good or better than the average central air conditioning system. That means you won’t sacrifice anything when you choose a heat pump to cool your home, and you’ll realize massive efficiency gains in the winter. Plus, since a heat pump can replace both an air conditioner and a furnace, your ongoing maintenance costs may be lowered.

Do Heat Pumps Have Drawbacks?

Of course, heat pumps aren’t perfect. Even though they offer efficient cooling and super-efficient heating for your home, some things might give you pause before you purchase one. One of those things is their cost. A heat pump will cost you more than a conventional central AC system. So, some of your early energy savings will be offset by that.

Plus, the average heat pump’s efficiency does decline when the temperature outside drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in Fox Valley, your heat pump will spend a decent chunk of the winter operating at less-than-peak efficiency. However, there are some heat pump models designed to work efficiently in sub-freezing temperatures, but those will cost you even more up front.

And last, replacing your central AC and your furnace with a single system does mean you’ll be running your heat pump year-round. Therefore, you can expect a maximum life span of about 15 years with a heat pump while a furnace can last far longer than that with the right maintenance. It is worth noting, however, that many states are moving away from natural gas for heating, and Wisconsin may eventually join them. So, a heat pump could offer a sensible future-proof upgrade to your home’s existing comfort systems.

Consult the Heat Pump Experts Today

If you like what you’ve just read about heat pumps, then you should know that there’s even more to learn about them. And the experts here at Black-Haak can help you with that. Since 1956, we have served homeowners and business owners in Fox Valley and beyond. We offer comprehensive HVAC services, including system installation, repairs, and maintenance. That includes handling the latest in heat pumps and geothermal systems.

We also offer plumbing, electrical, and indoor air quality services, too. We’re your one-stop shop for all of your home or business infrastructure and comfort needs. We’re also a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, and we pride ourselves on our reputation for quality workmanship, fair prices, and top-notch customer service. We even offer financing options on approved credit to help you afford the products and services you need.

So, if you’d like to know more about heat pumps or you have any other HVAC, plumbing, or electrical needs in Fox Valley, call the experts at Black-Haak today to find out more or to set up your service appointment!

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