Heat Pump in Oak Harbor, WA

With the usually mild temperatures around Oak Harbor, it’s worth exploring whether your home is best served by a heat pump or a central air system. Discover the differences between the two systems, and how to determine which is the best option for your situation.

How Do Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners Work?

Let’s begin by looking at how air conditioners and heat pumps work. Both use a system that uses a refrigerant to transfer heat. In the case of an air conditioner, it absorbs the heat from the air circuiting inside your home and transfers it to the air outside. It does this by regulating the pressure of the refrigerant, making it cold enough to absorb heat by dropping the refrigerant’s pressure. It then compresses it, increasing the temperature, to make it hot so that it can transfer that heat outside.

A heat pump operates on the very same principle as the air conditioner. The difference is that the heat pump has a reversing valve, allowing it to operate as a heating system in addition to cooling. When the reversing valve activates, it increases the pressure inside your home rather than lowering the pressure.

Different Types of Heat Pumps

There are three different types of heat pumps currently on the market. The most widely used is the air-source heat pump, which transfers heat to and from the air outside your home. However, there are also geothermal systems, which are still a form of heat pump.

The ground loop heat pump uses refrigerant loops buried in the ground. The loops are deep enough to keep them at a constant temperature so that they can transfer heat throughout the year, regardless of the weather outside.

A water-source heat pump is very similar to the ground loop, except that the loop runs through a water source. This can be a reservoir, pond, or a river, as long as it’s deep enough that it doesn’t freeze over in the winter.

Cost Differences

One of the leading factors in deciding whether to install a heat pump or central AC unit is the price consideration. Installing a central air conditioning unit averages anywhere from as little as $3,000 to over $10,000, depending on its size and efficiency rating.

An air-source heat pump usually starts at around $10,000 to install but goes up from there. However, keep in mind that this operates as both your heating and cooling system. This means, in part, that you have only one system to maintain, reducing the complexity and number of repairs.

When it comes to operating your system, both a heat pump and an air conditioner consume about the same amount of energy. However, the big difference comes in that it also heats your home. A furnace loses some heat through the exhaust, so it operates at less than 100% efficiency.

A heat pump, on the other hand, can transfer as much as 300% more energy than it consumes. That means that in a temperate climate like Oak Harbor, it’ll cost less to heat your home.

When Heat Pumps Lose Their Efficiency

There are certain instances where a heat pump starts to lose its efficiency. Both air conditioners and heat pumps lose their cooling efficiency when the temperature outside is more than 20 degrees hotter than your set temperature. Thanks to the mild summers, you rarely have to worry about it struggling to provide summer relief.

In the winter, the efficiency starts waning once the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and at 20 degrees it becomes less efficient than traditional furnaces. This happens because it relies on the outside coil being cooler than the air to absorb heat from the air. Once temperatures drop below these ranges, the system has to work harder to make that temperature difference.

Heat pumps also quickly lose efficiency if it has too little refrigerant in the system. When there isn’t enough refrigerant, your system cannot build the proper pressure. This prevents it from getting hot enough to exhaust the heat. This also puts an extraordinary burden on the compressor, causing it to burn out prematurely.

For more than 40 years, Island Heating & Air Conditioning has helped people around Oak Harbor keep their homes comfortable. Our team provides heating and air conditioning installation, repairs, and maintenance together with indoor air quality solutions. Call to schedule your AC or heat pump consultation with one of our installation specialists today.

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June 20, 2022 5:28 pm