Heat pumps are one of the most misunderstood and often times most cost effective options to heat your home. There are many types of heat pumps. The most common type and the type being discussed here is an air source heat pump. A heat pump performs the same function as an air conditioner in the summer time, in fact unless you know what to look for internally you cannot tell them apart. The difference with a heat pump is that in the winter time the cycle is reversed, instead of absorbing heat from the indoor air and rejecting it to the outdoor air as it does in the cooling season, it absorbs heat from the outdoor air and transfers it to the evaporator coil to warm the home. Typically the heat pump can accommodate the heating demand for an average home down to about 40 degrees and below that temperature the heat pump must have an auxiliary heat source such as a gas furnace or an air handler with auxiliary heat strips. The balance point of a home is the temperature the heat pump can heat the home down to without any back up heat source. The balance point varies depending on heat loss of the structure and the size of heat pump installed.
Over the years poor installation practices have given heat pumps a bad name. A heat pump is not the best solution for every home there are many factors that need to be taken into account such as duct insulation and sizing, air infiltration, etc.. One drawback for some people is that the heat pump can sometimes produce supply air temperatures lower than your body temperature making the air coming out of the ducts feel cool if it blows directly on you.
With the costs of propane skyrocketing to as much as $3.65 per gallon in the southwest Missouri area this winter a heat pump is a great solution to people looking to save money on their propane bill. A heat pump can save propane customers from 50% to as much as 75% of their heating cost. A heat pump is also up to 360 times more efficient than an electric furnace making it a great solution to those with all electric homes. Natural gas prices on the other hand are relatively cheap currently so the cost savings are not as drastic as it is for someone heating with propane or electric resistance heat. A properly installed heat pump can be a great solution to save energy dollars for many years to come.