It’s one of the most common questions we hear from local homeowners: what are heat pumps, exactly? Heat pumps have been around for many years now, but improvements in technology and efficiency have led more and more homeowners to make the switch to this type of cooling and heating system. In this article, we’ll review how heat pumps work and answer the top questions our customers have about these systems.

If you’re ready to learn more about your cooling and heating options here in Baton Rouge, you’ll want to contact us here at Buddy’s Air Conditioning & Heating. We offer free in-home estimates on new cooling and heating systems.

This newly installed heat pump provides both cooling and heating to this Baton Rouge home.

WHAT IS A HEAT PUMP?

So, what are heat pumps? A heat pump is a type of HVAC system, distinct from an air conditioner or a furnace. Unlike either of these systems, heat pumps provide both summer cooling and winter heating to your home. They are an effective two-in-one, year-round comfort system.

ARE HEAT PUMPS THE SAME AS DUCTLESS SYSTEMS?

You may have also heard about “ductless systems.” Ductless mini-split systems, as the name states, do not use forced-air ducts to cool or heat your home. Instead, the blowers are wall-mounted in each room, and can be controlled independently of each other. All ductless systems are heat pumps, but not all heat pumps are ductless systems. If you have a forced-air blower and ductwork system in your home, you can still get a heat pump.

HOW DO HEAT PUMPS WORK?

It’s right there in the name: “heat pump.” These systems pump heat from one location to another. The direction and end location for that heat energy depends on the season. Obviously, in the summer, that heat gets pumped outdoors. In the winter, it gets brought inside.

We’ll discuss the cooling side of things below, but here’s how heat pumps heat your home. Unlike gas and electric furnaces that generate heat through combustion or electrical resistance, heat pumps simply move heat energy from one place to another using refrigerant as the conduit. Even relatively cold winter air has residual heat energy in it. The heat pump pulls this energy out and moves it inside the home, effectively raising the indoor temperature.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HEAT PUMP AND CENTRAL AIR?

In the summer, there really isn’t much of a difference. Heat pumps and air conditioners operate generally the same way. Both systems pull heat energy out of the home and—using refrigerant as the conduit—release it outside. This lowers the temperature inside. This process repeats until the home is cooled to the temperature indicated on the thermostat.

The main difference is that heat pumps, unlike air conditioners, can then reverse the operation at the changing of the seasons. Instead of pulling heat energy out of the home, they can pull it out of the outside air and bring it inside to provide the home with heating.

ARE HEAT PUMPS ENERGY-EFFICIENT?

Yes. In many climates, heat pumps are an energy-efficient alternative to gas and electric furnaces. It takes less overall energy to move heat energy from one place to another than to generate heat energy through gas combustion (gas furnaces) or electrical resistance (electric furnaces).

DO HEAT PUMPS HAVE ANY DISADVANTAGES?

There’s an important catch, however: heat pumps generally work more efficiently in mild winter climates. Pulling residual heat energy out of the outdoor air when it’s 60 out is much different than pulling that same amount of heat energy out of the air when it’s 10 degrees outside. The colder the air is, the harder the heat pump has to work to move that heating indoors.

Here’s quick breakdown of heat pump heating efficiency:

  • 50+ degrees: heat pumps are nearly twice as efficient as a standard furnace.
  • 30-50 degrees: Heat pumps are about as efficient as a standard furnace.
  • 30 degrees and below: Heat pumps start to become less effective and efficient.

While today’s advanced heat pumps can work in any climate, you’re generally going to see the best efficiency and performance in a mild winter climate like ours here in Louisiana. Here in Baton Rouge, we typically only have 5-8 nights below freezing per-year. In fact, the Sun Belt is perfect for heat pumps.

HOW LONG DO HEAT PUMPS LAST?

Most heat pumps last about the same as an air conditioner: 15-20 years. Of course, professional preventative maintenance is key to extending the life of your system. You should have an HVAC technician look at your heat pump twice-per-year: once in the spring, and then again in the fall. This will ensure that your heat pump is ready for each season ahead. Due to the fact that they operate year-round, heat pumps can otherwise accrue a fair amount of wear-and-tear rather quickly.

GET A FREE IN-HOME ESTIMATE ON A NEW HEAT PUMP HERE IN BATON ROUGE

Thinking about upgrading to a new heat pump? At Buddy’s Air Conditioning & Heating, we offer free in-home estimates on new heat pumps from both Carrier and Trane. Call us today to get started, and we’ll work with you to find the perfect new heat pump for your home here in Baton Rouge.