Why Electric Heat Pumps are the Next Big Thing

When you think of cutting-edge technology, there’s a good chance that your HVAC system isn’t what first comes to mind. Maybe you think of electric cars or artificial intelligence, but the truth is, there have been incredible advancements in the world of air cooling and heating technology. With the developments of electric energy-efficient heat pumps comes a long list of benefits. Heat pumps not only heat up your house, but they can also be used as an air conditioning system. While they can be great in terms of their environmental l and cost-cutting benefits, there is, however, traditionally one glaring issue with heat pumps: They don’t work as well as gas furnaces when it’s extremely cold outside. Amazingly, the latest models show a lot of promise. 

This concern is one of many reasons why it’s so important to regularly service your heat pump during the cold-weather months. Due to the functionality of these systems, cold weather puts extra strain on the system, and a well-maintained heat pump means that your system is more equipped to handle the increased workload that will be required of it when it’s extra cold outside. Additionally, when your heat pump is running smoothly, your indoor air quality is better—keeping dust, debris, and potential mold growth at a minimum. And when do you spend the most time indoors? That would be winter, of course! 

All heat pumps have the same essential components, including an evaporator, compressor, condenser, and expansion valve. The process of heating up a space with a heat pump involves the refrigerant changing states between liquid and gas, absorbing heat from the source, compressing it to increase temperature, releasing it into the desired space, and then expanding to restart the cycle. But—did you know? There are actually two types of heat pumps in existence: geothermal and air-source heat pumps. 

While these two systems are different, they function in similar ways—by taking heat from an outside source and bringing it into your home (we’ll get more into this later). To cool your house, your system uses that same functionality, but puts the process in reverse. So in order to cool your house, you pull from heat. Even when it is super cold outside, there is actually still heat energy in the air. We know—this sounds a little crazy, but it’s true! 

Here’s how it works: Geothermal heat pumps specifically take their heat source and energy from the ground, then circulate a refrigerant through underground pipes to absorb or release heat. Air source heat pumps, however, gather energy from air. This way, when it’s cold, there’s still some thermal energy outside, but they have to work harder, more expensively and don’t work as well. With this type of heat pump, a refrigerant absorbs heat from the outside air and compresses it to increase its overall temperature. The heated refrigerant then releases the heat inside and heats up your home or building. Voila! Your home is nice and toasty.

What sets electric heat pumps apart from the more old-school variety of heating system like a furnace is that rather than generating heat on their own, they bring it in from somewhere else. That energy transfer is powered by—you guessed it—electricity. When it comes to putting the Earth first, an electric heat pump is definitely the way to go. This is because it has high energy efficiency and lower carbon footprint than other types of traditional heating systems. Unlike traditional heating systems, which burn fossil fuels, electric heat pumps essentially take heat from the surrounding air or ground, which requires less energy usage overall. The end result: Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which means a cleaner environment.

Because these electric heat pumps transfer energy instead of generating it, they use less energy and therefore cut down on your energy bills. Of course, there are multiple factors that can impact the bottom line of your bill, including how well your home is insulated. Home insulation and sealing directly affect heat retention, influencing energy usage. Weather conditions and temperature settings also impact energy bills, as heating systems work harder in extreme cold. There are other simple things you can do to keep the cold out and the heat in, like closing your curtains at night. Additionally, electric heat pumps provide both heating and cooling functionalities in one single system, which means you do not have to invest in maintaining two separate systems. These systems have become more versatile, durable and reliable as technology improves—and by regularly maintaining your system and choosing energy-efficient appliances, you will have better control over your expenses and minimize costs. 

There are benefits to these updates on a federal level as well. As of January 2022, the U.S. federal government offered incentives for using electric heat pumps, all with the goal of being more energy efficient and reducing environmental impact. These incentives typically come in the form of tax credits. The federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, for instance, offers a credit for a percentage of qualified expenses related to the installation of residential energy-efficient property, including certain electric heat pumps. It’s always a good idea to check up on these offerings, as these rules are quickly changing and evolving in ways that benefit taxpayers.

What’s most exciting is that at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show this past January, we are seeing technology that will allow even folks living in much colder climates the ability to use heat pumps , as Bosch unveiled its newest prototype models, the IDS Ultra. Consumer Electronics Show (or CES) is famous for revealing game-changing technology to the masses. It is the ultimate showcase of what’s to come and what we can expect in terms of innovation. And better yet, with each advancement made, these systems become more environmental and efficient, thus more cost efficient for the consumer. With this new technology exhibited by Bosch, it is clear that there is a real effort being made to solve the problems that electric heat pumps present. This model is Bosch’s first air-to-air heat pump that is specifically designed to handle significantly colder weather.   

For more information on the latest developments in the world of HVAC, stay tuned for our monthly newsletter. We’ll discuss everything you need to know that will help keep your system running smoothly.