By Phil Baldwin, CPS Heating & Cooling
As you can imagine, dealing with a person’s comfort within their home can be a daunting task even for those of us that have done this for a long time (30 years myself). Not only do we have to deal with the actual temperature, there’s also the aesthetics, the sound levels, the humidity, and finally the overall quality of the air. Now as we all strive to create a better planet for our children and their children, we try our best to reduce our carbon footprint, be “greener”, waste less, whatever you want to call it we all want to do our part. The items that use the most power in our homes are usually our heating and cooling equipment, so the obvious target for the green energy push would be those products. So, for today let’s check out air source heat pumps. With the incredible push for electrification along with the sizable utility rebates this seems like a good place to start.
A little History first:
A majority of us have heated our homes for years with some sort of fossil fuel burning appliance. We became used to the instant gratification of turning the thermostat up and in a few minutes, we would feel warm air blowing or hear the clicking sound of the radiators and pipes warming and, and a few minutes later, we can feel the warmth build into the room. We were also used to the systems lasting 20-30 years with little issues and maybe a little fix here and there. My grandfather’s system lasted 50 years before he decided to replace it because he didn’t want to leave the burden to his children when he passed. Somewhere during the 70’s and into the 80’s America saw nuclear energy as revolutionary and it would bring dirt cheap energy to all of us. So, the air source heat pump was really put into the market and championed by many. Not only will it air-condition your home, but using the same system you could heat as well. It was a win-win. Well nuclear energy became a bad word, nobody wanted that in their neighborhood. The honeymoon of cheap energy really did not work out, so as fast as the heat pumps became popular, they dropped off the radar. Those that were stuck with them experienced at best luke-warm air and at worst the unit would not keep up and transfer to straight electric heat leaving homeowners with shockingly high electric bills. So now we are in 2023 and the air source heat pump is BACK. But this isn’t your parents’ heat pump anymore.
Heat Pumps are BACK:
The idea of an air source heat pump and the use of refrigeration is very simple. It’s a way to move heat from a place you do not want it or need to another place where you do. So, with today’s technology the manufacturers can absorb heat from outside down to very low temperatures and bring it inside to heat our homes. To make these systems so efficient there are usually numerous circuit boards, temperature sensors, motorized valves, not to mention all the intricate copper and/or aluminum piping. This is no 1980’s heat pump. There is no need to create heat (which involves fossil fuels) we are just moving it from one place to another. So now we have a great way to heat and cool our homes, we just need to understand it operates differently. One of the main things is it needs to be sized properly. Oversizing a system can make it just as uncomfortable as under-sizing the system. It is also much slower at heating compared to the standard fossil fuel appliances we are used to. These systems are designed to maintain a temperature over changing the temperature. The colder it gets outside the more dramatic this will be. Next would be the efficiencies, they change based on the temperatures. So, the colder it is outside, the lower the efficiency of the system will be. I should note this does not apply to Geothermal types of systems as they are utilizing ground temperature that is fairly steady. Next, would be the actual dollars spent to heat your home. In general, a heat pump will cost more to operate than fossil fuel based on today’s electric rates. So, while we talk to our clients about all the great things a heat pump can do, we should also make sure to discuss what it won’t do. Lastly, the longevity of these products. The client should be aware that 12-17 years is about how long the system should last. Obviously proper maintenance and care of the system will help, but these are not your parents’ heating systems.