For lake dwellers, summers in the South bring longer, warmer days for enjoying the recreation and beauty of our lakes, enabling us to enjoy this season to its fullest. In turn, summer days also bring hot temperatures, leading to increased energy use as we cool our homes.
Did you know there are ways to cut energy costs while keeping your home comfortable in the summer months and year-round? Heat pumps, an all-electric version of heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, are the most advanced and efficient way for residents to keep their homes comfortable throughout the year with heating and cooling controls.
How does a heat pump work?
Heat pumps are all-electric HVAC units that transfer air thermal energy, “heat” opposite to the direction to normal heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one, and vice-versa.
“Most people think an air conditioning unit puts cold air inside your home. In fact, it is actually removing heat from your home, which in turn cools down the interior of your home,” said Jim Goolsby, a residential energy specialist for Alabama Power.
Heat pumps look and feel like a general air conditioning unit, however the technology around them creates an energy-efficient system for transferring heat in the home. A heat pump transfers the heat from outside the home to the air inside the home. As the air travels through the heat pump, a coolant on the coils of the equipment extracts the heat from the air, creating warmer or cooler temperatures depending on the flow of air.
“There is always heat in the air,” explained Goolsby. “It may feel cold outside to you but there is still heat in the air. We use that heat to heat and cool your home. Similarly, that’s why the air coming out of the unit feels hot outside your home. We are removing the heat from the air inside your home and blowing it outside.”
The flow of heat transfer depends on the setting the customer has selected. When set to heat, the heat is transferred into the home. When set to cool, the system is reversed to remove the heat.
Heat pumps are energy efficient and can help customers save on their energy costs.
“It’s much less expensive to transfer heat than it is to create it,” said Goolsby.
Heat pumps boast many advantages including durability and design options for residents. On average, heat pumps last 15-20 years in the Southeast.
Unlike a gas system, such as a furnace, heat pumps can be placed at any location in the interior of the home because they do not require ventilation.
“These are especially helpful when customers are building homes. Heat pumps don’t use flames or fumes, which means customers have more design options,” said Starla Curry-Hilliard, a market specialist with Alabama Power.
What is the best heat pump for your home?
“Each customer is unique and each home is unique. There are many choices for customers and even variations of heat pumps that can better serve each customer,” said Goolsby.
Air-source heat pump
The air-source heat pump is the most common electric heat pump. It uses an outdoor unit and outside air to transfer the heat. The outdoor/indoor unit is connected by copper tubing.
Geothermal heat pump
A geothermal heat pump uses the near-constant temperature of the earth or water for its heat source. It uses special water piping and the earth to transfer heat by extending to a depth of ground or water source that has a consistent temperature. Instead of air, a geothermal pump uses this source to drive the heating and cooling system.
Dual-fuel (hybrid) heat pump
A dual-fuel (hybrid) heat pump combines electric and gas systems. On colder days, the furnace supplements the electric system for heating needs. This heat pump is a good choice for customers who have an existing furnace that’s functioning properly by combining it with secondary heat or an auxiliary heat source with a new, high-efficiency electric heat pump.