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6 Myths About Heat Pumps

There are many reasons to invest in an electric heat pump — they don’t burn fossil fuels like furnaces, so they could help you reduce your carbon footprint. They are also more efficient than standard heating systems during shoulder seasons, and they last a long time. But heat pump functionality and features are often misunderstood. Here we set the record straight with six popular myths about heat pumps.

Myth #1: A Heat Pump Is for Heating Only

Don’t be confused by the name of this apparatus. Heat pumps are like air conditioners, except that heat pumps are designed for both cooling and heating. They’re called heat pumps because they essentially move heat into the home to warm it up, and they move heat out of the house to cool it down. A heat pump isn’t a device that generates heat; it just relocates it to provide reliable, efficient heating and cooling in your living space. Air-source heat pumps transfer heat to and from the air, rather than geothermal heat pumps, which transfer heat to and from the ground.

Myth #2: A Heat Pump Is All You Need

A heat pump will keep your home cool all summer long and makes a great addition to your home’s heating system, but unless you are in a new near-net or net-zero home, you should have a backup heat source, such as a gas furnace. Our winter temperatures can be extreme and are trending colder as climate change worsens. During these lows, it can be difficult for the heat pump to run efficiently, so your home will depend on heat generation from a furnace. Homes in milder, more temperate climates will be able to rely on their heat pump for heating more of the year than homes located in colder, windier areas.

Myth #3: Heat Pumps Work Only If You Have Ducts

Like traditional air conditioners, heat pumps can work with your home’s existing duct system and furnace or work independently as ductless split units. Depending on how large an area or how many rooms you want to heat or cool, you would get one heat pump which would consist of one compressor outside and a number of heads inside. Ductless units are also good complementary options for when you’re adding an addition to a home that uses ducts elsewhere since connecting new ductwork to old can be costly and may not be easily compatible with your existing system.

Myth #4: Bigger Heat Pumps Are Better than Small Ones

There are a lot of variables that go into what size heat pump will work best for your home, including the climate you are in, the heating and cooling loads in your home and what your goals are, i.e. are you replacing a system for part of the year or are you looking to improve energy savings? Size does matter, but bigger is not necessarily better. When you invest in any home comfort equipment, it’s essential that you get an expert to do a proper assessment to get the best system for your family and your budget. A Reliance® Home Comfort Advisor can help you determine what system and components will work best with your home and your wallet.

Myth #5: Heat Pumps Don’t Work in Cold Climates

We hear you, Edmonton, but this is not your grandma’s heat pump. There are heat pumps available today that can produce heat even when it is between -25c and -30c outside. The heat pumps that can manage this performance have a higher HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor.) Here’s the caveat, though – they will not heat as efficiently at that temperature. If you are somewhere like Alberta or Saskatchewan, you will want to switch to your backup heating source once you hit that threshold where your heat pump is less efficient than operating your furnace. But heat pumps will be more efficient at those temperatures than electric baseboard heating, which is still common across the prairies.

Myth #6: Heat Pumps Are Noisy

In our modern world, technology is constantly evolving. And just like other home appliances and systems, heat pump design and functionality have improved drastically in recent years — and most new models are thankfully less loud than the earlier ones. That said, there are considerations that you should take when installing a heat pump to help mitigate noise issues. Firstly, select a quiet unit – 60 decibels or less. And secondly, many models also have features that will help, like insulated compressors and variable speed fans and compressors. Still, putting the outside unit right across from the neighbour’s bedroom window probably should be avoided. Here’s another simple rule – if you can see it, you can hear it – even if it is pretty quiet, it isn’t silent.


Want to learn more about heat pumps? Read Next: The Cool Science Behind Heat Pumps

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Ready for a free in-home consultation to learn about how a heat pump can work for you? Just Call on Reliance®.

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