Heat pumps provide both heat and cool air. They are a tested technology, similar to that of air conditioners, with many millions of units installed worldwide.
Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling at much lower prices than other electric equipment.
Depending on their type and features, they can produce 2, 3, 4... times more heating than the electricity they use, contrary to common electric-resistance heaters with a relation of 1 to 1.
They are a reliable and flexible technology. But which is their role in energy-efficient homes?
Heat pumps can be of different types.
The most common are central air source heat pumps. They are, at their core, very similar to common central air conditioners, though also able to provide heating.
These heat pumps are able to produce 2+ times more heat than the electricity they consume and new models can be very effective at temperatures as low as -13º F (-25º C) or so, which is a fantastic innovation.
Geothermal or ground-source heat pumps have a special loop buried deep in the ground or submerged in the water.
This type of heat pumps are more efficient than air source heat pumps.
The problem with geothermal heat pumps is their prices. Prices (with installation) are typically above $40.000.
They are a good choice for cold climates, in condominiums and large buildings, with high heating and cooling bills, but they do not make sense in super-insulated and air-tight homes.
Ductless heat pumps (mini-split heat pumps) are cheap when compared with other heat pumps. And they are easy to install and provide a flexible room by room heating and cooling.
Ductless mini splits are a very interesting type of electric heating equipment for very energy efficient homes.
See: Ductless Heat Pumps
Ground-source heat pumps can produce 4 or more times more heat than the electricity they use. But does this make heat pumps an environmentally-friendly solution?
Heat pumps can also provide an economical way of heating water for domestic kitchen and bathroom uses. They can be equipped with a special heat exchanger, to provide hot water.
Or you can buy a stand-alone heat pump water heater, two to three times more efficient than common electric water heaters and as efficient as the best gas water heaters. They are an alternative to gas water heaters and to electric water heaters, but they require a careful installation and should be installed in a proper room...
These heat pumps can be connected to solar PV systems, which can becost-effective in cold-sunny regions where traditional solar water heaters are expensive to install.
Hot Water Heat Pumps
Heat pumps can produce both warm and cool air, while furnaces only produce heat.
But in traditional built homes with low levels of insulation and large heating needs, in cold climates, in freezing temperatures, air source heat pumps may not be effective enough.
Heat pumps can be seen as air conditioners with a heating mode.
When compared to older heat pumps, new models can easily provide 50% more warm or cool air than old units, while new "cold-climate" units are very effective even in freezing temperatures.
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