When you think about keeping your Florida home cool, your mind probably thinks “air conditioner” before all else. However, heat pumps are another viable option, especially in warm climates. Here’s everything you need to know.

How heat pumps work

If you know how air conditioners work, you already know a lot about heat pumps. The main difference is that heat pumps have a reversing valve, which allows the equipment to cool your home in the summer, the same as an air conditioner, and heat it in the winter by extracting warmth from the outside air and sending it inside.

Why heat pumps are a good choice in warm climates

Since heat pumps move heat instead of using combustion to generate heat, they work best when outdoor temperatures stay above freezing. Any colder than that and it’s particularly difficult for a heat pump to warm your home. A heat pump also must dedicate energy to defrosting the unit if ice forms during operation. These factors make heat pumps most beneficial in warmer climates where freezing temperatures are rare.

Advantages of heat pumps

  • One system accomplishes all your heating and cooling needs: This means, instead of needing to invest in a furnace for only a month or two out of the year, you can make a single investment that keeps you comfortable all year round.
  • Extremely efficient: In the summer, heat pumps are as efficient as top-end air conditioners. Then, in the winter, they save a tremendous amount of energy compared to a furnace because they move heat rather than burning a fuel source to generate heat. This allows greater than 100 percent efficiency, meaning the heat pump transfers more heat energy than the electric energy it consumes in the process.
  • More environmentally friendly: Less energy consumption means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, which is good news for the environment.
  • More even temperature: Heat pumps cycle on and off less frequently than furnaces so the temperature remains comfortable with smaller fluctuations.
  • Adequate humidity reduction: In Florida, where dehumidification is a key to home comfort, rest assured that air-source heat pumps remove humidity just as effectively as air conditioners. Ground source heat pumps complete the job even better.

Disadvantages of heat pumps

  • Not suitable for cold climates: Heat pumps decrease in efficiency when the temperature approaches freezing. Fortunately, with average winter lows over 50 degrees in Tampa, this disadvantage doesn’t affect you. Even so, heat pumps are now being developed for more efficient use in cold climates.
  • Heat is milder than furnace heat: During the winter, when you place your hand over a supply register, you’ll notice that the heat produced by a heat pump is not as warm as a gas- or oil-fired furnace. This is hardly a problem in Florida’s warm climate, though, especially because the milder heat helps prevent hot and cold spots in your home.
  • Backup heat: In cold climates, it’s absolutely necessary to install hardy backup heat, such as supplemental electrical heating. In Tampa where it only reaches freezing every two or three years, you can opt for smaller, more affordable backup heat.

Different types of heat pumps

  • Air source heat pump: This is the most common type of heat pump. It transfers heat between indoor and outdoor air.
  • Geothermal heat pump: Higher efficiency is possible with a geothermal heat pump, which transfers heat from the ground or nearby water to and from your home.
  • Absorption heat pump: While mostly reserved for large-scale applications, an absorption heat pump can also work in a larger home. It’s powered by solar energy, geothermal-heated water or natural gas instead of electricity.
  • Mini-split heat pump: This is a solution for homes or add-ons without ductwork.
  • Reverse cycle chiller: Instead of heating and cooling air, this equipment heats and cools water.
  • All-climate heat pump: This option is designed primarily for heating and is best for colder climates.

How heat pumps are rated

  • SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): This applies to air conditioners as well as heat pumps. It refers to the amount of energy consumed to remove a certain amount of heat over the entire cooling season. Look for 14 to 18 SEER for the best cooling efficiency possible.
  • HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor): This is the ratio of energy consumed in order to add a certain amount of heat to your home during the heating season. Look for 8 to 10 HSPF for good heating efficiency.

For more on installing a heat pump in your Tampa area home, please contact Senica Air Conditioning, Inc. today.

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