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How Does a Heat Pump Work in the Winter?

Being in the desert southwest, Tucson is rarely associated with cold temperatures, but we do have our fair share of winter weather. At RiteWay Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing, we work with homeowners who want to keep their AC/Heat systems working all year to stay comfortable. One of the most common pieces of AC/Heat equipment that we install, repair, and maintain is the heat pump. Here are the top 12 frequently asked questions about this type of heating system from homeowners in Tucson and its surrounding areas.

1. What Is a Heat Pump?

Although the name of this piece of equipment seems to indicate that it only works to heat your home, a heat pump actually provides heating and cooling. Also known as a mini-split or ductless system, a heat pump is a solitary component of your overall AC/Heat system that uses heat exchange to either lower indoor temperatures during the summer or raise indoor temperatures during the winter.

2. What Do Heat Pumps Look Like?

A heat pump consists of a condenser and an air handler. The condenser is installed outside, and the air handler is inside your home. The two components are linked with a line that delivers refrigerant. The design is excellent for homes without the ductwork that is needed for other types of AC/Heat systems, such as some of the older homes in Tucson. You may also want to consider a heat pump design when you build new additions to your home and don’t want to revamp the existing ductwork.

3. Are Heat Pumps Energy Efficient?

By design, heat pumps are incredibly energy efficient. The units rely on electricity to operate, so you do not need a natural gas line or another source of fuel. The electricity is only needed to run the unit, so the design is three times more efficient than units that require electricity to generate heat.

4. How Large Are Heat Pump Systems?

Heat pump systems are relatively compact. The cube-shaped outdoor unit measures 2 to 3 feet across, depending on the capacity. The indoor unit is rectangular and has a width similar to that of the outdoor unit. It is installed on a wall in your room. The fan distributes air throughout the entire space. Sizing is important when it comes to heat pumps, so we recommend that you speak with one of our heating experts to determine the proper unit for your home.

5. How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Heat pumps work through the process of heat exchange. During the winter, the system compresses the refrigerant to increase the temperature of the fluid. The condenser outside your home draws in air and passes it over the refrigerant to transfer heat to the air. The heated air is then moved to the wall cassette inside your home, and a fan distributes it into the room. You control the temperature of your room with a remote. Temperature control works the same as it does for standard AC/Heat systems. The unit turns on when the indoor temperatures reach a threshold below your setting and turns off once it reaches the desired temperature in the room.

6. What Are the Benefits of a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps offer Tucson homeowners several benefits compared to more traditional AC/Heat designs. The units have very simple designs and can be installed by RiteWay Heating, Cooling & Plumbing very quickly compared to more extensive heating and cooling systems. You don’t need to add ducts or modify your existing AC/Heat system in any way. Compared to other heating designs, heat pumps will save you money every month on your energy bills.

7. What Size Heat Pump Do I Need?

Choosing the right size heat pump for your home is an important first step. You need to start with the average temperatures in Tucson to determine the amount of temperature difference that is needed inside your home. You may also want to consider any areas of your home that tend to be warmer in the summer and colder in the winter.

8. Can Heat Pumps Be Operated with Solar Energy?

Because a heat pump only needs electricity to run the unit and not to generate heat, the design is perfect for Tucson homes with solar electricity. It saves the solar power for other uses in your home rather than monopolizing the energy that you do capture and store from the sun. Use this information to determine the tonnage that you need for a new heat pump. The calculations can be complex for someone who has limited knowledge of heating and cooling designs, so our experts are always here to help.

9. Do Heat Pumps Work Well During Tucson Winters?

It is true that heat pumps are not good for winter in every part of the country, but this is not the case for the mild winters in Tucson. Each heat pump comes with a rating that lets you know the optimum temperature range in which it will work to keep you comfortable. When you are choosing a heat pump for your home, be sure to work with one of our experts. Many heat pump designs are rated for temperatures well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much colder than what we have in the desert southwest. If we do have an unusually cold winter, the heat pump will work to heat your home, but you may see a slight increase in your energy utilization.

10. Can I Use a Heat Pump With My Existing Heating System?

Heat pumps are standalone units, so they can be used in homes that have existing heating and cooling systems. Installing a heat pump is more affordable than upgrading your AC/Heat units and adding new ductwork. The units are also more energy-efficient in operation compared to a new section for your existing equipment.

11. Are Heat Pumps Easy to Maintain?

Heat pumps only have two components, so repairs are much easier compared to large AC/Heat systems with more parts that wear out over time. The lack of ducts also helps with ease of maintenance because you have fewer areas where problems may arise.

12. How Long Do Heat Pumps Last?

The average lifespan of a heat pump that operates under normal conditions in Tucson is approximately 15 years. If we have unusually low temperatures for several winters or extra high temperatures for numerous summers, the heat pump may last between 10 and 15 years. The experts at RiteWay Heating, Cooling & Plumbing help you find the best heat pump system for your needs based on several factors, such as budget, lifetime, ease of use, reliability, and capacity.

Learn More About Heat Pumps for Tucson Homes

At RiteWay Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our team of certified AC/Heat and plumbing technicians helps homeowners in Tucson stay comfortable throughout the year. We offer installation, repair, and maintenance services for heating and cooling systems of all types as well as 24-hour emergency repair services. Call us today to learn more about heat pumps, duct cleaning and repair services, indoor air quality, energy audits, and mini-split systems. Be sure to ask about our plumbing services, including repairs, sewer services, water heaters, and drain cleaning.