Heat pumps are a clean and efficient way to heat and cool residential, commercial and industrial buildings. They perform in all climates and are usually outfitted with an auxiliary heat source to perform in more extreme temperatures. A heat pump operates on the principle of heat exchange. They move hot air from one location to another. This is much more efficient and cost effective than a forced air system. There are a variety of heat pumps available to choose from. Some are more effective in certain climates and building configurations than others.
The most common form of heat pump is the “air to air electric heat pump” and there are two types.
The first is the self-contained air to air heat pump which features both a heat exchanger and an air compressor in one unit. These are most commonly seen in industrial or commercial settings.
Secondly the split system is a bit more versatile with an outside air condenser but an interior air handling system. This allows for more customization.
Geothermal or “water to air” heat pumps use the ambient temperature of the ground to heat and cool a building. They are remarkably durable and energy efficient and have become very popular as the green movement has gained momentum. Finally, there are dual fuel heat pumps which combine an electric heat pump and a traditional furnace. These are most suited to areas like Southern Ontario that have sustained sub-freezing temperatures during the winter months. Most heat pumps operate on the principle of air to air transfer and the compression principle of thermodynamics. Heat travels downhill. This means that areas of high heat naturally travel to areas of lower heat.
In a cooling situation this heated air is blown through coils of refrigerant and then another fan pulls it into the home. This principle works in reverse to heat the home. The heat pump pulls heat from a lower temperature area and dumps it into the “heat sink”, the home, to raise the interior temperature. This is a simple concept, but the actual application is quite complex and involves the raising and lowering of the temperature of the refrigerant coils using compression. Heat pumps are easy to maintain, requiring mostly common sense maintenance. Clean the coils when dirty, replace the filters once a month, and have a technician service the heat pump once a year. Properly maintained heat pumps can last about fifteen years, and the typical Ontario resident can expect significant fuel savings on their monthly utility bill. For this reason alone heat pumps are a great investment, but they are also a more environmentally friendly alternative to gas or oil fuelled furnaces.