A heat pump is a device that uses a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another. Heat pumps are typically used to pull heat out of the air or ground to heat a home or office building, but they can be reversed to cool a building.
One of the biggest advantages of a heat pump over a standard heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) unit is that there's no need to install separate systems to heat and cool your home. Heat pumps also work extremely efficiently, because they simply transfer heat, rather than burn fuel to create it. This makes them a little more green than a gas-burning furnace. And they don't just heat and cool buildings. If you've ever enjoyed a hot tub or heated swimming pool, then you probably have a heat pump to thank. They work best in moderate climates, so if you don't experience extreme heat and cold in your neck of the woods (like here on Vancouver Island) , then using a heat pump instead of a furnace and air conditioner could help you save money each month.
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A ductless heat pump is a highly efficient heating and cooling system. It is easily installed as a new primary heat source for electrically heated homes. Ductless heat pumps are much safer, quieter and heat rooms evenly. Ductless systems heat and cool homes at a fraction of the cost of baseboards and wall heaters and do not require expensive and invasive ductwork. They require only a three-inch opening in the wall or ceiling. Installation is as simple as mounting the indoor and outdoor units, connecting the refrigerant lines, and making a few electrical connections.
As our cave-dwelling ancestors discovered long ago, if you go far enough underground, the earth's temperature stays at a constant 50 degrees or so, no matter how hot or cold it gets outside. So while a conventional "air-source" heat pump struggles to scavenge heat from freezing winter air or to dump it into the summer swelter, its "ground-source" counterpart has the comparatively easy job of extracting and disbursing heat through the 50-degree liquid circulating in its ground loop. That's why it takes only one kilowatt-hour of electricity for a geothermal heat pump to produce nearly 12,000 Btu of cooling or heating. (To produce the same number of Btus, a standard heat pump on a 95-degree day consumes 2.2 kilowatt-hours.) Geothermal systems are twice as efficient as the top-rated air conditioners and almost 50 percent more efficient than the best gas furnaces, all year round.
The geothermal loop that is buried underground is typically made of high-density polyethylene, a tough plastic that is extraordinarily durable but which allows heat to pass through efficiently. When installers connect sections of pipe, they heat fuse the joints, making the connections stronger than the pipe itself. The fluid in the loop is water or an environmentally safe antifreeze solution that circulates through the pipes in a closed system.
Geothermal heat pump systems are usually not do-it-yourself projects. To ensure good results, the piping should be installed by professionals who follow procedures established by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA). Designing the system also calls for professional expertise: the length of the loop depends upon a number of factors, including the type of loop configuration used; your home's heating and air conditioning load; local soil conditions and landscaping; and the severity of your climate. Larger homes requiring more heating or air conditioning generally need larger loops than smaller homes. Homes in climates where temperatures are extreme also generally require larger loops.
Geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but instead of using heat found in outside air, they rely on the stable, even heat of the earth to provide heating, air conditioning and, in most cases, hot water.
Given all the attention being paid to solar power these days, you might be surprised to learn that one of the most promising solutions to high energy costs isn't up in the sky but buried deep under your lawn. Superefficient geothermal heat pumps provide clean, quiet heating and cooling while cutting utility bills by up to 70 percent.
In principle, a geothermal heat pump functions like a conventional heat pump, by using high-pressure refrigerant to capture and move heat between indoors and out. The difference is that conventional systems gather their heat—and get rid of it—through the outside air. Geothermal systems, in contrast, transfer heat through long loops of liquid-filled pipe buried in the ground.
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