If you’ve heard of heat pumps, then you probably already know the big advantage they have as HVAC systems: they can operate as both heating and cooling systems. Essentially, heat pumps are air conditioners that can switch the direction they move heat, so they can both remove heat from a space and bring heat into it.
Heat pumps are becoming more popular each year, but here in Minnesota, most people still rely on an HVAC setup that pairs an air conditioner with a furnace (gas or electric). It’s familiar, it works for most homes. So why consider heat pumps in Eden Prairie, MN for home comfort? Do they live up to their promise as a year-round all-in-one comfort solution?
Answering this question requires looking a bit closer at heat pumps and how they operate in Minnesota weather.
Heat Pumps: The Switch Hitters of the HVAC World
The construction of a heat pump is similar to an air conditioning system in most ways. Like an AC, a heat pump compresses refrigerant into a high-pressure gas to make it circulate between an indoor and outdoor set of refrigerant coils.
In cooling mode, the heat pump does exactly what an AC does: release heat through the outdoor coil and absorb it through the indoor coil. Adjusting the thermostat to put the heat pump in heating mode simply reverses this process: now the heat absorbs heat through the outdoor coil and releases it through the indoor coil. All it takes to make the switch is reversing the direction the refrigerant circulates, which the heat pump does through a component called the reversing valve.
“Heat? It’s Getting Winter Heat From Outside?”
Here we come to the concern people have with using heat pumps in climates that get extremely cold during winter. When in heating mode, a heat pump pulls heat from outdoors to bring it indoors. But since a heat pump will only run in heating mode on cold days, where is it getting that heat? Especially if it’s below freezing, which is most winter days in Minnesota.
The simple answer is that there’s always heat energy in the air, no matter how cold it is. However, it’s harder for heat pumps to access that heat in sub-freezing temperatures, and this used to lead to heat pumps having a drop in efficiency.
This isn’t a problem anymore. Heat pump technology has advanced, and there are now special cold-weather heat pumps that can still work effectively and efficiently during extreme temperature lows. There is also an option to pair a heat pump with a small backup furnace that comes in when the heat pump needs assistance.
Should You Get a Heat Pump?
Heat pumps offer some excellent advantages, such as using less electrical power than electric furnaces, making them great for all-electric houses. They’re also environmentally beneficial. But they still won’t work for all homes. Please call our technicians and they’ll work with you to find if a heat pump is a good fit for your home.