Here Come Heat Pumps

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What is a heat pump, and why does it matter?

A heat pump is like an air conditioner in reverse. An air conditioner cools some air, but it does it by making other air hotter. That’s why the air conditioner usually sits outside the house–so it can vent the hot air straight into the atmosphere, and pump the cool air inside. A heat pump just reverses the process, moving the warmer air into the house and the colder air out. In fact, most heat pumps are actually a single unit for both heating and cooling.

If you think about a really hot day, how much does the outside air need to be cooled to make it comfortable inside your house. Maybe 25 degrees? Now think about a really cold day. That air needs to be heated up 50 degrees or more before it goes into the house!

That’s a big difference, and heat pumps used to have trouble making that big a change. In fact, ten years ago heat pumps were rare in regions where the temperature spent much time below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They just weren’t efficient or effective.

But not so much anymore. Heat pump technology has improved, and heat pumps are now effective down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures above that, they’re more efficient than burning natural gas or fuel oil, too. Plus, they can heat or cool in a single piece of equipment. When it’s time to replace your heating and cooling system, a heat pump is probably cheaper to buy and cheaper to run–and that matters!