Top Ten Things Know About Heat Pumps


There’s little argument that our summers seem to be getting warmer. Have you ever dreamed about an air conditioner, especially on those warm nights when you can’t get comfortable or sleep well? Do you have a gas furnace that is aging? If it’s time to replace your furnace, you might consider adding AC and/or upgrading to a heat pump system which will heat and cool your home more efficiently.

Here’s The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Heat Pumps:


A heat pump is a device that “moves” heat from one location to another. A heat pump heats a house in winter and cools it in summer using electricity.

A refrigerator also does this but in reverse from a heat pump. A refrigerator makes the interior icebox cold by removing heat; while heat pumps warm the air in a room by removing the heat from another source – either the air surrounding the unit (air-source) or from the ground (ground-source).

Heat pumps and air conditioners look and install the same, but the heat pump has a reversing valve, allowing it to run in reverse, thus heating your house instead of cooling it. In the simplest terms, when it’s cold outside it may feel cold to you but to the heat pump it’s a warm day so it can absorb that heat and transfer it to your home very efficiently.

In fact, the term “heat pump” itself can be a bit misleading as the name actually refers to the fact that it transfers heat, so it can reverse its cycle and transfer heat to the outdoors to cool your home in summer. In addition to their superior efficiency, this is one reason why many people inquire about heat pumps when they are looking to add AC.

There are two types of heat pumps: air-to-air and geothermal. Air-to-air captures and moves heat between the indoors and outdoors, while geothermal (ground-source or water-source) heat pumps capture and move heat between the indoors and the relatively constant temperatures just below the earth’s surface. Heat pumps are best suited for climates with moderate heating and cooling needs.

#2 What are the benefits of installing a heat pump?

The Heat pump’s greatest advantages are their energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact. Heat pumps are incredibly energy efficient, requiring less energy to use than traditional furnaces. This results in less carbon emissions (due to the fact it runs on electricity and not gas) and lower power bills. According to the Department of Energy, heat pumps are an energy efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners because they move heat rather than generate it. Keep in mind that energy-efficient appliances often qualify for low-cost loans, tax credits and rebates.

#3 How is a heat pump different from a furnace?

Here is where the heat pump vs furnace discussion really becomes clear.  A furnace uses natural gas to generate its own source of heat and then circulates this heat throughout your house, which emits carbon out of the flue vent. Perhaps the chief advantage of furnace is the start-up cost. These devices are fairly simple machines that use a very well-established technology. As such, they are less expensive to install. Also, the effectiveness of a furnace is not impacted by the weather. As long as the machine has fuel, it will have no problem in producing heat. These machines do have some drawbacks, however. Depending on local power rates and your source of fuel, they can be expensive to operate. Furnaces also produce carbon emissions that can be harmful to the environment. These machines also typically require more maintenance than heat pumps.

Property owners choosing a heating system for their home or business often get a little confused when picking between heat pumps or furnaces. Each system has its pros and cons, and the right choice can often depend on your individual needs. Furnaces are the traditional means of heating buildings, however they do not cool the building. A heat pump has the ability to heat and cool a building. A good HVAC consultant can help guide you to the right balance between the right choice for you and the right choice for your home.  

#4 What’s the downside to choosing a heat pump?

Heat pumps are more expensive to install than traditional furnaces with an A/C unit, but tax credits or rebates from utilities may be available to help defray the expenses. Washington’s climate is mild, meaning that in all but the coldest of conditions, heat pumps will work fine. If temperatures drop below 30 degrees a backup heat source is utilized to be sure the unit still heats your home. This is called a Duel/Fuel system and this is what is used in Sammamish homes. Heat pumps that draw heat from geothermal energy in the ground are also a solution. They are more costly to install but eliminate the need for a secondary heat source.

#5 What would a typical installation of a heat pump include?

  • A thermostat – to control the operation of the heat pump system as a whole.
  • An air handler or gas furnace – to circulate the air.
  • Heat pump unit – responsible for the transfer of the heat from one location to another.
  • An air cleaner – filters out pollutants and dust as the air circulates.

#6 Why shouldn’t I just replace my furnace?

Maybe you should. However, if you’ve ever considered adding an air conditioning to your home, upgrading to a heat pump makes more sense economically and environmentally.  

#7 Can I use my existing ductwork to install a heat pump?

YES! Assuming your ductwork is in good working order (with no leaks or compromised seals) and it is the correct size for the system. The best systems include good design as well as new equipment.       

#8 What are the best brands of heat pumps?

Trane, Carrier, Mitsubishi and Bosch – These systems are highly rated, reliable for our area, as well as easy to maintain and service. There are subtle differences in design and craftsmanship, but all these brands pretty much function the same way. Your specific needs might discern the best brand for you.

#9 Do I have to get a permit to install a heat pump?

Usually a permit is needed from your city if you install a heat pump, air conditioner, or a furnace. An inspection will also be required. A good HVAC company will handle all of this for you.

#10 What’s it going to cost me?

Expect to pay about $8,000-$12,000 (cost includes permits, thermostat, air handler, air cleaner and heat pump) for installation of a whole-house air-source heat pump system in an average home (three-ton capacity/approximately 2500 square feet) with existing useable ductwork. The costs can escalate to $12,000-$18,000 or more if new ductwork must be installed or failing ductwork must be replaced.

We hope this has answered some of your most questions about heat pumps and heating and cooling options. Adding air conditioning to your home not only makes it comfortable for you but it can also adds value to your home in the event that you put your home up for sale.  Contact us today to see if adding a heat pump is the right choice for you!

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