Heat Pumps


Greater Salt Lake City & Utah County (801) 983-7333

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a device that moves heat from one area to another to help maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. In some ways they are very similar to an air conditioner in their cooling capabilities. However, they are unique from an air conditioning unit in terms of their heating capabilities. 

Both heat pumps and air conditioners function by removing heat from one location and depositing it in another location. Many people don’t realize this and think that air conditioners are producing cold air. However, in fact they are more just removing heat from the air inside your home and funneling it outside your home, creating cooler air inside your home and therefore cooling the home. A heat pump during the summer months can actually do the exact same thing. It will remove heat from the air inside your home, funneling it outside and thus cooling your home just like an air conditioner would. In essence a heat pump, like an air conditioner, is just a mechanism used to transfer heat. 

However, during the cold months of the year, the heat pump can also act as a heating system, making it unique from an air conditioner in that it can really function as both a heat system and an air conditioner. In the cold months, the heat pump has a reverse valve that allows it to absorb heat from the outdoor air (even in very cold temperatures), and transfer that heat inside your home, effectively heating your home. In this way, a heat pump acts as both the heating and cooling system for your home, creating a more energy efficient way to cool and heat. 

How Does a Heat Pump Work?  

As mentioned above, the heat pump works by transferring heat from one location to another. In the case of cooling, it takes heat out of the air in your home and transfers it out, effectively blowing out colder air into your home and cooling the home. The reverse works for heating capabilities too, and the heat pump takes the small amount of heat in the outdoor air and transfers it into the home to heat the home. This heat transfer works even in cold temperatures when the outside heat seems to be limited (cool, huh?). However, it uses a lot more energy to do so when temperatures drop below freezing (we discuss this in the limitations section below). 

A heat pump uses electricity to run and a refrigerant to transfer the heat back and forth. Because refrigerants have a very low boiling point, manipulating the temperature/pressure ratio of the refrigerant allows the heat pump to transfer heat back and forth (in a very simple, layman’s way of explaining the process). Also because the heat pump runs off of electricity, this type of heating does not burn fossil fuels, making it more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. 

Heat pumps generally come in two types, ground source and air source. Air source heat pumps transfer heat from the air into the home, whereas ground source heat pumps transfer heat from the ground. Air source pumps tend to be slightly more common because they are less expensive. However, ground source pumps, while more expensive, tend to be more energy efficient and often more cost effective due to the ground’s temperature being a little more constant throughout the year. 

Benefits of Using a Heat Pump

  1. Energy Efficiency
  2. Acts as both a heating and cooling system – installing and maintaining only one system
  3. Electricity powered – no fossil fuels. 
  4. Can sometimes lower energy costs

Heat pumps have some advantages that make them a great choice for many. A heat pump is very energy efficient because it doesn’t burn any fossil fuels to transfer heat. It is powered from electricity and uses less energy than it produces, allowing you to cool or heat your home with more efficiency, which often lowers costs. A heat pump also acts as both your heating and cooling system for many climates, lowering your upfront costs of having to install both air conditioning and a furnace, as well as potentially lowering maintenance costs as well. Rather than two completely separate systems, you instead have one system that can do it all, saving you time, hassle and money. While heating can be tricky for a heat pump in very cold climates (we discuss solutions to this problem in the supplemental heating section below), a heat pump can be a great choice to help you lower costs, save money, help the environment, and still have a very comfortable home all year long. 

Heat Pump Limitations

Heat pumps have distinct advantages that make them a great choice. However, they also have some limitations that you should be aware of. Heat pumps can be limited in their effectiveness in extremely cold environments, typically when the temperature frequently drops below freezing. This is because the heat pump is transferring heat from outside to inside, and although, even when it is cold outside, the pump can still extract heat from the outside, it just takes a lot more energy to do so. The unit still works just fine, but when temperatures drop below freezing, the unit has to work much harder to funnel in the limited heat available, often using more energy to do so than the heat that it is producing. For this reason, if you live in a particularly cold climate, such as Utah during some winters, you may need to consider pairing your heat pump with a furnace solution in a supplemental heating arrangement. These types of arrangements are still very smart and energy efficient, and with today’s innovative technologies for pairing these systems, this arrangement can become a powerhouse for heating and cooling your home (see below).

Supplemental Heating

Because we can reach very extreme temperatures here in the Salt Lake City and Provo areas, we at Larsen would generally recommend a backup system for heat if you are using a heat pump for your home. These types of arrangements of using a heat pump with a back up heat system are often called dual fuel systems, hybrid systems or a supplemental heating system. 

A supplemental heating system essentially means using your heat pump as your primary source of heating and cooling during the year, but pairing it with a furnace solution that kicks in automatically if the temperature becomes too cold.  In this way, you are using a more energy efficient heating system throughout most of the year, but on those particularly cold days you are never left without heat. Some people simply include a small electric auxiliary heater with their heat pump indoors to generate heat in the winter. However this solution is often not as efficient and we typically recommend pairing with a furnace instead. 

When you pair a heat pump with a furnace as a backup, these heat systems have been found to be very energy and cost efficient, especially for many people in Utah, making them a great choice for your needs. You can get the benefits of the energy efficient heat pump during the spring, summer and fall, but then have the back up system for when the temperature is too cold on some winter days for the capacity of your heat pump. In this way, you get both energy efficient cooling and comfort, with often lower costs and even a little environmental friendliness too!

 For more information about heat pumps, how they work or supplemental heating systems, give us a call at Larsen today. We can walk you through the different options available for heating and cooling your home and help you find the best system for your needs. 

About Larsen Heating and Air

We have been in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry for many, many years, and have expertise in a wide variety of heating and cooling systems. Our staff are licensed and expertly trained in a wide variety of systems and models and we have the knowledge and expertise to help you get the right system for you. Whether you are considering heating solutions for a new home, or replacing your outdated or malfunctioning system, we can help you find the right solution and get set up for a comfortable home all year round. We provide up front quotes and pricing and source our products from what we feel are the best brands in the industry. We can also often get you the best pricing on heat pump equipment due to our supplier relationships. We are a Gephardt approved company and are dedicated to serving you! 

Feel free to give us a call with any questions related to heat pumps, other HVAC related systems, the options available and the advantages of each. We are happy to give you a free consultation and answer any questions you may have so you can make the best choice for you. Call today!