Heat Pumps for Home: 13 Things (2023) You Need to Know

Whether it’s a blazing hot summer or freezing cold winter, your home’s heat pump has got your back!

Heat pumps don’t always get the respect they deserve, but that doesn’t mean they’re the perfect option for everyone; however, there sure are a lot of benefits to them!

So, if you’re thinking about switching to a heat pump, you might have some questions.

Well, we have some answers!

We’re going to talk about all things related to heat pumps for homes, like what they are, how they operate, their advantages and disadvantages, and a heck of a lot more!

By the end of this article, you’re going to be an expert in heat pumps, and isn’t that the reputation you’ve always wanted to have?

So, get ready to efficiently heat up or cool down your home and let’s get started!

1. What Are Heat Pumps?

A heat pump, put simply, is a machine that pumps hot air from one area to another–simple, right?

The system requires an outdoor and an indoor unit (unless using the less common geothermal system), which work together to suck up hot air and introduce it to an inside space or expel it outside.

But a common misunderstanding is that heat pumps can only heat a home–no, no, no!

These machines can also remove heat from inside a building by pushing it outside and then cycling in cool, refrigerated air.

A win-win scenario!

The biggest difference between heat pumps and traditional heating and cooling systems is that they are designed to be ultra-energy efficient.

In recent years, green technology has progressed so much that heat pumps are now a very competitive alternative to things like natural gas heat systems.

So, for people looking for an environmentally friendly system or to cut down their electricity bills, installing a heat pump is an excellent option!

2. How Do they Work?

Heat pumps work in two different ways to either heat or cool a home.

bulletLet’s first look at how they can warm up a home.

The outdoor unit takes in any heat available from the air, compresses it to make it hotter, and then cycles it through the tubes leading to the indoor unit, which then blows the hot air into the room.

The surprising thing about heat pumps is that many of them can provide hot air in temperatures of less than -20°F.

Yes, really.

Even in freezing temperatures, there is still heat in the air, and with the help of the compression process, heat pumps can continue generating warm temperatures–smart system, huh?

bulletLet’s now look at how heat pumps can cool down a home.

To cool down a home, the heat pump will suck in hot air from inside, send it to the outdoor unit, and blow it away.

The compressor will then send refrigerated air to the evaporator coil of the indoor unit, cooling the temperature down inside.

It’s a nifty little system!

3. What Makes Heat Pumps So Efficient?

Okay, we know what heat pumps are and how they operate, but what makes them so efficient?

Well, heat pumps do not generate heat; instead, they move heat.

That means they don’t require as much electricity, nor do they require any propane or oil heat source to operate.

So, heat pumps for homes are good for the environment and save you money.

What could be better than that?

4. What Are the Different Types of Heat Pumps?

There are two main kinds of heat pumps that operate as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems: air-source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps.

Before we dive into the differences, just know that both types of heat pumps achieve the same goals and use energy very efficiently.

bulletWhat is an air-source heat pump?

Air-source heat pumps are the most common type because they’re easier to install and less expensive.

This system, using the typical indoor and outdoor units, sucks up heat from the outdoors, compresses the air, and blows it inside (or sucks in heat from inside and blows it outside).

It’s a highly reliable system that produces top-quality results.

Most of the time, when people are speaking about heat pumps, they are referring to this air-source system.

bulletWhat is a geothermal heat pump?

Geothermal heat pumps transfer heat to and from the ground or a water source and only rely on one central unit.

Since the temperature of the ground stays more consistent than the air outside, the system is a bit more efficient than air-source heat pumps.

But the installation process is much more complicated and expensive.

Not to mention, doing maintenance on an underground system is by no means a walk in the park, even for basic repairs.

Most people will choose air-source heat pumps, but if you’re looking for the most efficient option, a geothermal system is the way to go!

5. What are the Disadvantages?

There are a lot of advantages when it comes to using heat pumps for homes, which we’ll talk about, but let’s check out the disadvantages to get the whole picture.

bulletUpfront costs

Yes, heat pumps will save you money on your electricity bill, but first, you have to bite the bullet of the upfront costs.

Heat pumps cost several thousand dollars, and you’ll need to pay a professional to install the system–unless you already have experience installing the units yourself.

bulletObtrusive indoor unit

The indoor unit of an air-source heat pump sticks out like a sour thumb.

Manufacturers have done their best to make them as subtle as possible, but they are noticeable.

So, take time to consider where your unit will be placed and if you’re okay with the aesthetic before making the purchase.

bulletVulnerable to cold weather

Although some heat pumps are designed to operate at freezing temperatures, snow and ice can damage them.

For those who live in an area that frequently experiences freezing weather conditions, heat pumps may not be the best option.

bulletDifficult installation process (geothermal system)

The installation process for geothermal heat pumps is laborious, time-consuming, and expensive.

You have to carefully plan where the ground is going to be excavated and understand the geology of your property.

You may need permission to install these systems depending on your municipality.

6. What are the Advantages of Heat Pumps for Home?

The good news is that there are far more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to heat pumps for homes. Let’s take a look!

bulletLow energy costs

Compared to combustion-based systems, heat pumps are less expensive to run.

On average, they could cut back your heating/cooling bill by 20 to 70%–not bad, huh?

bulletReduced CO2 footprint

Since heat pumps are designed to be as efficient as possible, they require far less energy, which reduces your carbon footprint.

When you turn your unit on, you can rest a little easier knowing you’re doing your part to help the environment.

bulletHeating and cooling system

Heat pumps are a two-in-one system that can heat and cool a home.

Usually, two separate systems are required to achieve this, such as an A/C unit and a gas furnace, but not anymore!

When the summer rolls in, you can switch your heat pump into its cooling mode and enjoy.

bulletSafe heating system

Heat pumps use electricity to run, which is much safer than relying on combustion-based systems that have to burn fuel to function.

Electrical devices still need to be used with caution, but the risks are far fewer.

7. What is the Major Problem of Heat Pumps?

Heat pumps are a reliable heating/cooling system, but, like all devices, you may experience a few hiccups with your unit.

The most common problems are rattling noises, improper heating and cooling, and failure to turn on.

These problems are easily dealt with, but let’s dive into what might be causing them.

bulletRattling noises

  1. Loose parts (unbalanced blower wheel)
  2. The outdoor unit is not level
  3. Damaged parts

bulletImproper heating/cooling

  1. Dirty filters
  2. Blocked air ducts
  3. Low liquid refrigerant levels
  4. Damaged/old parts

bulletFailure to turn on

  1. Dead batteries in the remote (oops!)
  2. A circuit breaker or outlet that’s been switched off
  3. Blown fuse
  4. Faulty device

Luckily, doing maintenance on heat pumps is straightforward, and a specialist should be able to diagnose and fix any issues that come up during your machine’s lifespan.

8. How Long Should a Heat Pump Run?

Heat pumps should run for about 10 to 20 minutes per cycle, and they should perform about 2 to 3 cycles per hour.

If your heat pump is running for longer than 20 minutes or is cycling more than three times within an hour, you might need to have a specialist look at it.

Here are a few possible causes of irregular cycles.

bulletCold outside temperatures

If you’re experiencing colder than usual weather, your heat pump might need to work harder to achieve your desired temperature.

bulletSize of heat pump

A heat pump that is too large or too small for the room/home it’s operating in could lead to shorter or longer than usual cycle times.

bulletMalfunctioning thermostat

A faulty thermostat can give the machine incorrect temperature readings, resulting in sporadic cycles.

9. Can A Heat Pump Heat an Entire House?

One single heat pump can heat an entire home; however, you might need to rely on a ducted heat pump to achieve this.

What’s a ducted heat pump?

A ducted heat pump uses a central indoor unit that transmits hot or cold air from the outdoor unit into various rooms through a system of ducts.

It’s a great option for anyone with a large home who doesn’t want to rely on several individual heat pumps (also known as mini-split heat pumps).

Of course, ductless mini split heat pumps are still a great option, and there’s nothing wrong with installing multiple units in your home as long as you’re okay with their aesthetic.

10. What Should You Not Do with a Heat Pump?

When you install a heat pump in your home, there are a few things you want to avoid doing so that you can achieve maximum efficiency and avoid mechanical issues.

Here’s a list of what you should not do with a heat pump.

bulletDon’t use auto mode

Not using the auto mode may seem odd, but it can unnecessarily cause your heat pump to switch from the heating and cooling systems because of slight temperature changes.

This will put a strain on your machine and waste energy.

bulletDon’t play around with the temperature settings

Heat pumps operate most efficiently when kept at a consistent temperature setting.

If you’re constantly raising or lowering the temperature, the machine will have to adjust and work harder.

Find a comfortable temperature for the season and try to change it only if you’re out of the house.

bulletDon’t use the lowest fan setting

The faster fan settings provide better circulation and help cool and heat the area, which will save you more money on electricity!

bulletDon’t avoid regular maintenance

This is a no-brainer!

Always make sure to do regular maintenance on your heat pumps about twice a year.

Consistently cleaning and checking parts will prevent you from expensive issues in the future.

11. What Maintenance Needs to be Done?

Doing maintenance is an important part of owning a heat pump.

We recommend that you hire a professional to do the maintenance, especially if you have a ducted system.

However, homeowners can easily check and replace filters without assistance.

Let’s go over everything that needs to be checked.

Make sure to ask the specialist who services your heat pump if they performed all these tasks.

bulletCheck ducts

bulletCheck filters

bulletCheck blower

bulletCheck evaporator coil

bulletCheck liquid refrigerant levels

bulletCheck for proper airflow

12. How Much Does a Heat Pump Cost?

Heat pumps come in a range of prices, and the cost is determined by size, system type, and brand.

In general, you can find air-source heat pumps for homes between $1,000 and $5,500.

Geothermal heat pumps can cost between $3,000 to $6,000.

Why are geothermal heat pumps more expensive?

Well, the installation process is very complicated and requires a lot of labor, which is responsible for the majority of the price.

13. Are Heat Pumps Really Worth It?

Everyone has different needs and preferences, but for most people, heat pumps are worth it!

If you can handle the upfront costs and the appearance of the indoor unit, you’re going to enjoy a cheaper electricity bill and feel good knowing you’ve chosen an environmentally friendly option.

One of the best things about heat pumps is that they can last between 10 and 15 years.

So, as long as you do regular maintenance on your unit, which is cheap and easy, you won’t need to worry about replacing your heating and cooling system for quite a while.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations!

You are now an expert on all things heat pumps!

They are an excellent way to efficiently heat or cool a home, which is good for the environment and your bank account.

So, we hope this article answered all your questions and helped you decide if a heat pump technology is the right thing for you.

Of course, if you’re still not sure, head to your local home improvement store or contact a specialist to learn more!

Additional Resources

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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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