December 18, 2020

The Benefits and Limitations of Heat Pump Use in Winter

Manufacturers build reversible mechanical systems within heat pumps so that they can provide either heated or cooled air. The reversibility function means that in cold weather your heat pump can extract heat energy from outdoor air and move it into your home. On the surface, the notion that cold outdoor air has heat energy to offer feels difficult to believe. However, the depressurization of refrigerant moving through the heat pump lowers its temperature below the outdoor air. This allows the refrigerant to draw heat from the slightly warmer external air.

Pressurization and Depressurization

Placing refrigerant under pressure increases the temperature of the refrigerant because the molecules are crowded and colliding with each other and producing heat energy. Alternatively, reducing pressure on refrigerant gives the molecules space to spread out and therefore cool down.

The reversing valve within a heat pump controls whether pressurized or depressurized refrigerant is moving into the outdoor unit. In the winter, the heat pump moves depressurized coolant outside. Because depressurization has caused the refrigerant’s temperature to drop, it cools the coil outside. As long as the cooled coil achieves a lower temperature than the outside air, heat energy within the air will be drawn to the coil. The refrigerant picks up this heat. The system then pressurizes the refrigerant with the captured heat and pumps it inside the home.

Can It Ever Be Too Cold to Run a Heat Pump?

Most heat pumps remain effective for heating down to temperatures of 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Tolerance for subfreezing temperatures varies by model. You can get plenty of good heat from a heat pump in 30-, 40-, and 50-degree weather. As a result, a heat pump can meet your needs in an efficient manner until severe cold snaps hit.

Supplemental Gas or Electric Furnace Heat

In the area of St. Louis, MO, Scott-Lee Heating Company helps homeowners select the most efficient heating systems. We offer a selection of high-quality furnaces and heat pumps. The winter season in our region experiences temperatures suitable for effective heat pump operation. This allows you to limit the use of furnaces that are more expensive to operate. Our heating installation team possesses the experience to install heat pumps, furnaces, or both. In the summer, your heat pump can satisfy cooling needs and provide efficient heat during most of the cold season.

Don’t Assume a Frozen Heat Pump Is Broken

Ice on the outdoor portion of a heat pump does not necessarily mean that the unit cannot provide heat. Manufacturers have anticipated this problem and equipped heat pumps with defrost systems. When you turn on the defrost setting, the machine moves warm refrigerant into the outdoor unit to melt off the ice that is interfering with function.

You can expect cool air to blow from your indoor air handler during the defrost cycle. This is normal. Depending on the amount of ice and snow built up on the unit, the defrost cycle should fix the problem in 15 minutes to a couple of hours. Then you can turn on the heat setting and get warm air in your home.

Heat Pumps Can Reduce Utility Costs

The efficient operation of heat pumps attracts homeowners to install them. When compared to a furnace and air conditioner combination, a heat pump has the potential to cut roughly $500 from your bills each year. Of course, many factors enter into the equation, such as the size of your home and the quality of insulation.

You gain the most savings from a heat pump in the cold weather. Its power usage in the summer is equivalent to an air conditioner, but it works better than a furnace unless the weather is well below freezing. For example, if you have a day with a 45-degree high and 30-degree overnight low, your heat pump can keep you comfortable while preventing the activation of a furnace.

Personalized Advice for Your Heating and Cooling Challenges

Since 1978, Scott-Lee Heating Company has stayed on top of advances in heating and cooling technology. We understand the indoor comfort challenges created by our climate. Our guidance can connect you with a highly efficient heating and cooling system. We can solve indoor air quality issues related to filtration and humidity. We are also a licensed provider of heating and cooling repairs to residential and commercial customers. Contact us today for service from qualified technicians.