Heat Pumps: Reducing your Energy Usage

The energy consumption in our home is horribly high!  We use a lot and we waste a lot.  We are not proud of either of these facts but our house is insulated poorly and uses a big, viagra sales rx energy guzzling, viagra canada unhealthy electric furnace.  So try as we might to reduce our energy bill, we are only able to effect a small percentage.

While we have committed to upgrading the insulation ourselves (at least to date, we have committed to doing it ourselves) the heating component is something for the professionals.  After talking with many, and doing a lot of our own research, we have been leaning towards investing in a heat pump.So what is a heat pump?  I didn’t know either so here is what I was able to find out on Wikipedia:

“Heat pumps have the ability to move thermal energy from one environment to another, and in either direction. This allows the heat pump to effectively bring thermal energy into an occupied space, or to take it out.”  This means it can act as a heater or an air conditioning unit.

Here’s a better description of how a heat pump actually works (once again, according to Wikipedia):

“A heat pump uses an intermediate fluid called a refrigerant which absorbs heat as it vaporizes and releases the heat when it is condensed.

  • In heating mode the outdoor coil becomes the evaporator, while the indoor becomes the condenser which absorbs the heat from the refrigerant and dissipates to the air flowing through it. The air outside even at 0 °C (or at any temperature above absolute zero) has heat energy in it. With the refrigerant flowing in the opposite direction the evaporator (outdoor coil) is absorbing the heat from the air and moving it inside. Once it picks up heat it is compressed and then sent to the condenser (indoor coil). The indoor coil then injects the heat into the air handler, which moves the heated air throughout the house.
  • In cooling mode the outdoor coil is now the condenser. This makes the indoor coil now the evaporator. The indoor coil is now the evaporator in the sense that it is going to be used to absorb the heat from inside the enclosed space. The evaporator absorbs the heat from the inside, and takes it to the condenser where it is rejected into the outside air.

But why does it save so much energy versus your standard heating or cooling systems?  As I did some research, I began to understand that this is not an easy thing to answer as there is a lot that “just depends”.  The easiest explanation is that the energy a heat pump uses to lower or raise the air temperature 1 degree is less than conventional heating and cooling systems (HVAC).  Basic math on this is that heat pumps use a joule of energy to transfer a joule of energy (which either heats or cools your home).  A HVAC system will use 3 or 4 joules of energy to transfer 1 joule of energy to your home.

The “depends” portion of the above relationship is the temperature differences that you are trying to overcome in your area.  That difference is the temperature inside your home versus outside your home.

So if you live in a mild climate, heat pumps are a great choice because they don’t need to overcome larger temperature differences.  In areas of extreme temperature differences, it takes more to do more and therefore heat pumps become a good choice.  Hopefully that makes more sense than it did to me the first 20 times I heard it.

Because we live in a mild climate, a heat pump is a very effective way to go.  Now we just need to get over the sticker shock.  Heat pump systems cost approximately 3-5x a HVAC and while there are incentives out there, you really need to be in your space 12+ years to see a return on investiment.

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