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10 Myths & Facts About Heat Pumps You Should Know

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Heat pumps have found their moment to shine but there is a lot of conflicting information about what they can really do. As an old technology it is easy to assume that they are stuck in the past. Let’s take some time to go over the real facts about heat pumps and put to bed any myths that are lingering. 

What is a Heat Pump?

First, let’s quickly review what a heat pump is. At it’s most basic, a heat pump simply pumps heat out of a home when operating in cooling mode (just like a refrigerator) and pumps heat back into the home when in heat mode. It uses the superpower of refrigerant fluid to move heat where it needs to go to cool and heat your home. 

Refrigerant changes quickly from a fluid to a gas when it absorbs heat. In the summer, the heat pump’s indoor component blows warm air from the home over the refrigerant-filled coils where it changes to gas and is moved into the outdoor component where it releases the heat energy and returns back inside. In the winter it reverses this process.  

Additional reading: Heat Pumps 101: How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Myths and Facts about Heat Pumps

There are a lot of myths and rumors about heat pumps so let’s go over the most common beliefs about heat pumps and get the facts. 

1. Heat pumps don’t work in cold weather

Heat pumps are an energy efficient option for all climates. They are especially good for areas that have milder year -round weather, like Portland. In winter, when temperatures dip below freezing heat pumps have a harder time pulling heat from the air and into a home. However, dual fuel heat pumps combine the efficiency of a heat pump with the heating power of a gas powered furnace when the temperatures go below freezing. 

2. Heat Pumps only provide heat

The name might be a bit confusing. Because heat pumps move heat from place to place rather than generate it, they can provide heat in winter and offer cooling in summer. Your refrigerator pulls heat from inside and blows the warm air out the bottom of the unit. Heat pumps work on the same principle, absorbing heat inside the home and moving it outside so you can stay cool. 

3. Heat pumps are noisy

There is some noise that a heat pumps makes because fans are blowing air over coils and through the home. The noise is similar to your refrigerator turning on and off. Most people don’t even notice. Additionally, there are a lot of heat pump brands that are very quiet. We are a fan of Carrier HVAC products. If a heat pump is making a lot of noise that is the time to call a professional for an inspection, 

4. Heat pumps take up a lot of space

The exact amount of room a heat pump will use depends on the manufacturer and type you are getting: ductless, air-to-air, or ground. Most of the heat pumps larger components are installed outside the home and need space for air circulation, access for maintenance, and any pipes needed. In general, the space is basically identical to AC sizing. 

5. Heat pumps need more maintenance

Like a furnace and an air conditioner, heat pumps need regular annual maintenance to stay in tip-top shape. A typical heat pump lasts about 12 to 15 years and annual maintenance ensures optimal performance and long life. 

6. Heat pumps need to remain on all the time

Like riding a bicycle, heat pumps use a lot of energy to get started and then go into cycling on and off as the system needs it. Systems that are improperly sized for your home – too small or too big – will work harder and may run a lot or short cycle in an attempt to maintain the desired temperature. Getting a professional to install your heat pump will keep it running properly and using less energy. 

7. Heat pumps only work in well-insulated homes

Almost any HVAC system works better in a well-insulated home. You are going to get more efficiency and lower energy bills. That said, heat pumps can overcome insulation deficiencies if it is the right size and fit for your home situation. A professional can run a Manual J that evaluates your home so that the correct size is installed. 

8. Heat pumps aren’t environmentally friendly

The one reason heat pumps are getting all the spotlight attention is that they are very environmentally friendly. The technology itself is pretty old – the first system dating to the 1850s. But the technology is improving and is surprisingly low tech, making it a good alternative to fuel based HVAC systems. Because heat pumps don’t make heat – they just move it around – they are energy efficient and do not produce much CO2 emissions. 

9. Heat pumps are more expensive than other HVAC options

The initial installation costs of a heat pump can be high, especially when compared to other HVAC options. Remember a heat pump offers both heating and cooling in one unit. You will save money in the long run because they are extremely efficient but if you aren’t planning to stay long in your home it will be hard to see the cost saving benefits. 

10. Ducted heat pumps are better than ductless

There is no right or wrong answer here. Both ducted and ductless heat pumps are a good choice – depending on your situation. Ductless offers a lot of control over how you heat and cool your home. But if you already have a ducted HVAC system then there is no reason not to use it when you convert to a heat pump. 

Heat Pump Installation in Portland

Finding the right size heat pump for your home is crucial to both your energy bills and your comfort. Since 1952, Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning experts have been guiding homeowners through the process of correctly sizing a heat pump for your home. Consultants will help evaluate your home to ensure your heat pump is long-lasting and will keep you comfortable in all seasons.

Avoid extra costs and fewer repairs by scheduling a tune-up for your existing heating system before issues arise. Our maintenance plans keep your system running like clockwork without any stress or hassle. No matter what you need we’re always just a phone call away.

About the Author

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Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.