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Top 7 Frequently Asked Questions on Heat Pumps

Your heating and cooling system is a significant investment for your home. One option you have for whole-house heating and air conditioning is a heat pump. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions to help you understand how it works as well as its benefits.

1. What Is a Heat Pump, and How Does It Work?

An air-source heat pump typically has an indoor and outdoor component that utilizes a refrigerant to regulate interior temperatures. The indoor unit is a compact air handler mounted inside the house. The outdoor unit has a heat exchanger coil that can absorb heat from the outdoors.

A refrigerant line connects the two components. When you need to heat your home, your system activates the outdoor unit. The outdoor unit extracts heat from the atmosphere and transfers it to the indoor air handler.

Through the heat transfer process, it is more efficient at heating your home than a conventional system. It generates warm air more consistently than a space heater or furnace.

2. How Do You Determine the Efficiency of a Heat Pump?

The COP (Coefficient of Performance) is the principal measure used to determine a heat pump’s efficiency. COP is the ratio that describes the energy the system produces for every unit of work it performs.

Depending on the model, a heat pump may have a Coefficient of Performance between 3 and 4. That is to say, for every three or four units of heat, it consumes only one unit of electricity.

A heat pump can provide both heating and cooling. In heating mode, its efficiency is determined by HSPF. The minimally mandated HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) in Tucson is 8.2. Some models built for cold climates can attain HSPF ratings of over 18.

Similarly, SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is used to measure the efficiency in cooling mode. In Pima County, the federal minimum for a heat pump is a rating of 14.

Before settling on a heat pump, it is necessary to analyze your home’s energy requirements. The correct capacity of your heating and cooling appliance will ensure you optimize the performance of your system. Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Air Conditioning team can assist you in choosing a unit suitable for your Tucson home.

3. Can a Heat Pump Work in Cold Weather?

Heat pumps can generate heat even when the temperatures are below freezing. When it is freezing outside, the atmosphere still has some energy that your heat pump can extract. However, at low temperatures, its performance will decrease considerably.

Studies suggest that your average heat pump system can extract energy from the atmosphere at lows of -130 Fahrenheit. In areas where temperatures drop beyond those levels, a conventional furnace is used to supplement heat.

You can still save energy even when using your furnace as a supplement for heating. Your gas furnace will only run when temperatures drop to below freezing. Fortunately, winter is mild in Pima County, and there is usually no need to supplement your heat pump.

4. Why Does My Heat Pump Go Into Defrost Mode?

Under certain conditions, your heat pump will develop frost on the outdoor unit. The transfer of heat from the outdoors may force temperatures on the evaporator coil to dip considerably. It is not unusual for some light ice and frost to form on the unit.

The purpose of the defrost mode is to thaw the ice. It works by alternating between heating and cooling modes. In the cooling cycle, heat moves to the outdoor unit and heats the frost on the coil. The defrost mode should be long enough to eliminate ice but also short enough to save energy.

However, not all cases of frost on the outdoor unit are part of the system’s normal function. Thick ice on your heat pump’s coils can be an indication of a fault. Refrigerant leaks, faulty reversing valves, and wiring issues can lead to excessive frost buildup.

If a thick film of ice develops on the outdoor unit, it may damage your heat pump eventually. You can call Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Tucson for quality repairs. The longer you ignore the issue, the faster your outdoor unit will malfunction, leading to system failure.

5. What Else Can a Heat Pump Do?

Besides heating and cooling, a heat pump can perform other functions such as dehumidification and water heating. Just like a typical air conditioner, heat pumps can eliminate moisture through condensation. The system channels the water away from your equipment through a drain pan.

Heat pumps are more efficient at reducing humidity than conventional air conditioners. The most recent models allow you to choose the dry mode when the heat pump completes a cooling cycle.

The dry mode works by alternating between heating and cooling. Your system can eliminate moisture without compromising the temperature regulation function. Some models have features such as a variable speed motor. The dehumidification process will keep you comfortable and cut down your home’s energy consumption.

Another function of a heat pump is to heat water. It operates on the same principle of extracting ambient heat from its surroundings. The appliance compresses the refrigerant further to generate more energy and distribute it throughout the tank.

The process is more efficient than conventional water heaters. It also has the additional benefit of dehumidifying the interior using the cool water in the tank. A heat pump water heater is one of the best whole-house options when you want to save energy.

6. Why Doesn’t My Heat Pump Dehumidify My Home?

A heat pump can remove humidity from your home’s interior efficiently. But several factors could diminish its capacity to eliminate humidity. Cracks and holes around doors and windows can introduce moisture from the atmosphere or adjacent rooms.

The problem could also be the sizing or faults in your equipment. Dirt and grime on the evaporator coils can also limit the condensation capacity of the system. If you detect issues with your equipment, you can consult Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Tucson.

7. What Is the Average Lifespan of a Heat Pump?

A heat pump has an average lifespan of 15 years. Heat pumps have fewer components and are, therefore, not as prone to frequent technical malfunctions. With regular maintenance, some systems can last more than 20 years.

You can keep your system running efficiently for many seasons by consulting a professional. You can troubleshoot and fix simple issues such as thermostat problems. But attempting to repair your heat pump can end up costing you more in the long run.

Additionally, the manufacturer’s warranty requires homeowners to consult a certified technician for installation or maintenance. Otherwise, the manufacturer will rule out your claim and may not cover the cost of replacing components.

A professional with experience repairing and installing heat pumps can spot issues developing in your system. They can provide valuable insights on how to manage energy consumption and optimize your equipment’s performance.

Are you in need of heat pump repair, installation, and maintenance? Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is your go-to service in Tucson. We service virtually all models of furnaces and air conditioning equipment. We are proud of our Reader’s Choice Award and Angie’s List Super Service Award in 2020. Call our top-rated team today for quality heat pump services in Tucson.