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Historically, the terms “heat pump” and “environmentally friendly” did not go together at all. Heat pumps had a reputation for being terrible for the environment and for being a horribly inefficient way to heat and cool your home. All of this has changed, however, thanks to government requirements for heat pump efficiency. The heat pump manufacturers have long since met and surpassed these requirements. These days, heat pumps are known as the environmentally friendly choice for home owners. How have things changed so much? Much of it comes down to how heat pumps operate.
First, consider how central heating and cooling systems function. They take air and then heat it or cool it to the temperature you require based on the temp you have set your thermostat at. The systems require an energy source to get this job done. That means your central heating or cooling system needs the energy from your electric or gas/natural heat system – sometimes both. It comes as no surprise to anyone with one of these systems that the energy used is significant. Running your heating and air conditioning can increase your power bill by hundreds of dollars every month. In addition to being a drain on your wallet, these central systems and the energy that they use are a drain on the environment.
Now, consider heat pump technology. Heat pumps do not use energy to heat or cool air to any temperature. Rather, they simply shuffle air back and forth. During the winter, heat pumps pull heat from the air or ground and pumps that warm air into your home until the thermostat reaches your desired temperature.
In the summer months, the process is essentially reversed. The heat pump transfers warm air from the inside of your home to the outside, lowering the inside temperature to your desired setting. Because there is no active heating/cooling process in a pump, but rather the transfer of air, operating costs can be much lower.
All heat pumps are not created equal, however. If you live in an older home and your heat pump predates the government regulations, then it still may be terribly inefficient. Even new heat pumps can vary greatly in terms of their effectiveness. Also, heat pumps are not efficient in climates with extreme temperature swings.