Way back in the middle of the 19th century, an Austrian named Peter von Rittinger observed that forests in upper Austria were being cleared to use as fuel for producing salt from naturally occurring salt brine. He developed a process to evaporate water from salt brine using 80% less energy than boiling away the water over a wood fire. He called his device a steam pump. Today, we refer to systems performing similar functions as heat pumps.
Modern heat pumps are used for both heating and cooling. They remain one of the more energy-efficient systems for heating and cooling. There are two types of modern heat pumps. Geothermal, also known as ground source, utilizes heat from underground or underwater and condenses it to produce heat or cooling to distribute through a home. Air-sourced heat pumps take in outside air to do the same thing. Both types are capable of keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer.
Why Consider a Heat Pump?
- Most HVAC industry information recommends that a conventional central heating and cooling system should be replaced every 10-15 years. Well-maintained systems may last longer, but eventually repair costs get higher and higher as more expensive components start breaking down. Air conditioners usually fail before furnaces, but often it is best to replace both units at the same time. Heat pumps have a longer life expectancy; 20-25 years is not uncommon. For a house that is expected to last a normal lifetime, replacing the conventional central heating and cooling system may be needed two or three times. A heat pump may only need to be replaced once.
- Heat pumps require less maintenance. A once a year preventative maintenance and service check is all that is needed. Conventional systems should be checked twice a year. Not only does a heat pump need repair less often, when it does need repair it is likely to be less expensive. Heat pumps have fewer parts to break down and require replacement than conventional systems.
- Heat pumps are more energy efficient; utility bills will be lower. Heat pumps use electric-powered fans to circulate air around a home, but they do not directly consume fossil fuels to produce heat. In most homes without a heat pump, the central heating and cooling system is the largest user of energy.
- Over their lifespan, most conventional air conditioners develop refrigerant leaks. The leaks get repaired with regular maintenance and more refrigerant is added. The missing refrigerant has leaked out into the air as environmental pollution. Replacing refrigerant is costly, and dispersing the refrigerant into the atmosphere is harmful. Heat pumps do not use refrigerant. There is nothing to leak and cause environmental harm.
- A downside to heat pumps is that generally they are more expensive than conventional central heating and cooling systems. Over years of lower utility bills, fewer and less expensive repairs, less routine maintenance, and fewer replacements, a heat pump is usually a less expensive option despite the higher initial cost.
To learn more about heat pumps, call the experts at Semper Fi Heating & Cooling at 480-616-3636.