How Can A Heat Pump Help Me Save On Energy Costs?

Everyone who talks about heat pumps mentions the widespread claim that they will save you money on energy costs. Today we’d like to talk in pretty simple terms about how it works, how it saves you money, and what you can reasonably expect.

Coins going into a pink piggy bank

What does a heat pump do?

A heat pump gathers and transfers heat, rather than generating it. It works by circulating a chemical refrigerant in gaseous or liquid state. A combination of valves, compressors and condensers gets the refrigerant to the right conditions to lose or absorb heat at specific points. In summer an expansion valve cools the refrigerant just before it enters the home. In winter a different expansion valve makes the outside coils suck in ambient heat that can then be condensed and pumped to the inside unit.

How is it more efficient?

Because it transferring heat that’s already out there takes far less energy than generating it.

Compression and expansion change the temperature of some chemicals. It’s sort of like blowing on soup to cool it down: the air escaping your mouth decompresses and cools a little bit. By creating certain conditions for the refrigerant, the lines in the condenser can take on outdoor heat, even when it’s cold out. Switching some valves can do the opposite when it’s time to cool the house.

A heat pump has to compress and decompress constantly to do its job, but gathering heat from the air or ground is still more efficient than generating it with electricity. Furnaces over 25 years old with pilot lights run at about 65% efficiency, whereas even basic heat pumps run at 80% or higher.

How much will it save me?

Unfortunately it’s impossible to answer that one way for everyone. It will depend on the type you get, whether it’s the right one for your climate, what kind of system it’s replacing, configuration, and your usage habits. People throw around numbers like 30% or 50% increase in efficiency. In general, if you’re replacing a conventional system and your usage stays where it was before, you will save money. Here are how some factors may influence your savings.

  • Type and climate. Air source heat pumps don’t work too well in very cold regions because there is so little heat in the air for the evaporator to gather. For these areas you may need a geothermal system. They are more expensive but also the most efficient heat pumps.
  • Heat level. If you run your new heat pump system higher than you ran your furnace, you might not save much, but at least your home is more comfortable. When you get a more efficient system, it’s up to you what to do with it.
  • AC option. A heat pump system can also function as an air conditioner. If you previously did not cool your home, but then you do with your heat pump, you costs might increase. But again, the balance between cost and comfort is still up to you; a more efficient system just gives you more choice.
  • Configuration. If you keep everything the same but use a heat pump as supplemental to a furnace, you might save $300 a year on oil.

Are there other ways getting a new heat pump can save me money?

Yes. Some older heat pumps use Freon-22 as the refrigerant. The EPA banned that, causing the price to go up for people who still have those systems. Getting a modern heat pump can drastically reduce those maintenance costs. Furthermore, some geothermal heat pumps can function as water heaters, essentially dong the work of three appliances. And lastly, newer model heat pumps are more efficient than older heat pumps because they have innovations like variable speed fans and compressors, and scroll compressors.

If you are interested in talking to experienced technicians about what kind of heat pump would be right for your home and how much it could save you, call Twin Air at (703) 754-1062 or visit us online.

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