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Pump Pump It Up : How do Air Source Heat Pumps stack up against other systems?

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Imagine a world where you can heat (and cool) your home without a “furnace”. Seems too good to be true, right? It’s not! There is a huge list of systems to choose from when it comes to heating your home. When you start to consider the various factors such as heating requirements, cost, and energy efficiency, we understand why you may feel overwhelmed by these decisions.  To make any educated decision about something as important as your home, it should be well researched. Getting it wrong can cost a lot of money and cause headaches. We are here to share our knowledge and help inform your decisions towards heating your home furnace- and fossil fuel-free with an air source heat pump.

 

Why use them?

1.     They offer flexibility

The small amount of equipment required and simple wall mounting system frees up space on your floor plan and allows climate control in different zones of your home.

2.     They save you money

Traditional forced air systems have large and loud mechanical elements which use a lot more electricity or fossil fuels to run and use precious square footage on your floor plan. (Cha-ching!) Other systems risk loss of heat when delivering the heated or cooled air to a space. (Cha-ching!) Air Source Heat Pumps deliver air directly into the desired zones.

3.     They are quick and easy to install

A ductless system only requires enough room for a 3” conduit to connect between the interior unit and the exterior compressor. This makes installation faster and headache-free.

4.     They lower your carbon footprint…and help save the world

These electric systems run with much greater energy efficiency. Whether you decide to put a solar array on your home to provide for the home’s overall electricity demands or not, you are not using fossil fuels and therefore reducing your carbon output drastically. Win!

 

The first step towards achieving a thermally comfortable environment is to build an air tight envelope. This means taking measures to ensure that every crack, hole, and seam during construction is properly sealed so that conditioned air does not escape. It’s one of the tenets of high-performance building. Not only does a high-performance home offer advantages like lower maintenance and operating costs, material efficiency, and energy efficiency, one of the most significant advantages is its superior ability to maintain a healthy and comfortable indoor environment by way of a well-sealed exterior shell + filtered air exchange. While high-performance construction does most of your temperature control for you passively, you’ll want some way to either heat or cool your home during temperature extremes.

So now that we’ve wrapped up unnecessary heat loss, let’s compare some of the different systems out there.

Fossil Fuel-based Systems

We feel that one of the biggest mistakes that can be made while designing a home is installing a heating system fueled by propane, oil, or gas without considering an electric heat pump. Heating with fossil fuels can cost owners thousands of dollars a year in energy bills more than needed. The fuel truck pulls up to your drive way, fills up the tank and then drives away with all of your money in tow. Fuel costs can unexpectedly spike and are constantly in flux, leaving bills on your desk with charges that are unpredictable.  Burning fossil fuel is bad for the environment, and this central heating system doesn’t provide you with the additional advantages like air filtration and cooling that an air source heat pump system can.  Air source heat pumps do require electricity to run, but they can convert energy to heat at a rate of up to 3:1 versus the comparatively small conversion of your average furnace. It’s simply way more bang for your buck. And…if you add a solar array to your home your heat bills go to zero!

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Both air source and ground source heat pumps are environmentally friendly alternatives to central heating because they extract the heat from the surrounding environment and move it from one place to another, rather than combusting fuel to generate heat. But geothermal does have a few big drawbacks you might consider. Geothermal systems require underground tubing loops to harness the Earth’s natural heat. When the ground temperature is warmer than the air, the system delivers the warmer temperature to the house, and when the ground temperature is cooler than the air the system delivers the cooler temperature to the house. It’s a fantastic idea in theory, but the design of the system is extensive and expenses and maintenance can outweigh the efficiency advantages in certain climates. Ground source systems are incredibly dependent on factors such as climate, soil conditions, available land and local installation costs at the site, leaving many windows open for error (remember we warned you about those big holes in your home). One of the biggest risks with a ground-source heat pump is the fact that it's a one-off design. The size of the system is designed for the heating demands of the building and then buried in the ground. Forever. It’s a common industry practice to install a bigger pump than needed to compensate for any possible errors in design or installation. This guarantees functionality, but is overpowering for the requirements which will cost you efficiency and money. Air source heat pumps, while using the same technology are simpler systems that are entirely above ground. Issues in refrigerant loops or other system maintenance is all accessible and not as costly to repair/address.

Duct-less vs. Ducted Heat Pumps

Ducted and duct-less systems both work on the same principles. The big difference is in how the conditioned air is delivered. A duct-less unit delivers air to its designated zone in the home (one unit per zone). A ducted system will deliver air from one large unit through a network of ducts running in the walls. In a side by side comparison of duct-less and ducted heat pump (same heating load and air volume output) a ductless head is typically the more cost-effective system but depending on location, design and other factors, this may not always be the case. When a ducted heat pump system is applied in a high-performance house containing lots of insulation in the roof and walls, the ducts running in these areas are also well insulated, reducing heat-loss. The determination of whether to go with duct-less or ducted heat pumps is ultimately based on what environment you’re looking for in the individual spaces within your home. Duct-less units provide the ability to deliver individually controlled temperatures to each zone of the house they supply and can be shut off to conserve energy when desired. But too may single heads in a high-performance home can significantly impact the efficiency of the overall system. A ducted system will deliver one uniform temperature to the whole house. In cases where a duct-less unit is too powerful for zones that may have a lower load requirement than the rated size of the unit, a ducted system may be the option for you.

For more information contact us at info@brightbuilthome.com