As the weather starts to warm up, more people will start turning to it Heat pumps To keep their homes cool? Despite their misleading name, heat pumps operate as a heating and cooling system Role From one unit, at a time Save you money And reduce your traces of carbon.

Heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular Homeowners and builders are looking for more efficient ways to heat and cool buildings. As of 2020, there were approximately 16 million homes in the United States Using heat pumps, According to the data From the Energy Information Administration, states and cities across the country are also incentivizing homeowners to adopt them.

Given that policymakers are so interested in heat pumps, knowing the basics can be a good idea, especially if you’re a homeowner.

What is a heat pump?

To choose the best heat pump for your property, you will need to understand what it is. A heat pump uses the same basic science as a refrigerator, and in that sense, it’s not actually a “pump” in the way most people traditionally think of it.

“It’s a pump, but heat isn’t really a thing,” he said. Rhett Allen, associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University. “People think of heat as a liquid,” he added, meaning that it flows from one thing to another, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. In fact, a heat pump works by helping energy move “from the hot thing to the cold thing,” Allen said.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about finding a state of balance in terms of temperature, in the same way that electricity works. With that in mind, Alan said that instead of thinking about a pump, “a better example is your refrigerator.”

“The back of it gets hot and the inside gets cold,” he said. “You have to take energy from one place and then it has to go somewhere else.” With a heat pump or air conditioner, the energy is forced outside, and in the case of a refrigeratorthe power goes behind the appliance (which is why the back of the refrigerator is warm).

On a practical level, it can be a little mind-boggling, but on a scientific level, it’s fairly simple: air conditioners, refrigerators, and heat pumps all perform the same basic job of equalizing air temperatures. They use electricity to do this, rather than, say, a A gas oven, which ignites gas to increase the temperature.

Bottom line: When it’s warm outside, a heat pump moves warm air outside and cool air in, and when it’s cold outside, it does the opposite. By comparison, a refrigerator works in only one direction: moving warm air outward.

Ducted versus ductless heat pumps

Many types of heat pumps can be used in a home or other type of building. They can be classified in two basic ways, depending on the details of the building. One way is to group them into “ducted” or “ductless” heat pumps.

“A ductless system is a system that does not have connected ducts,” said Edison Deka, a senior energy consultant at the university. Environmental Technology Center. In other words, if the home has ductwork (as many new homes do), a ductless system would be unnecessary, as the system itself includes indoor head units in different rooms connected to an outdoor unit via wires and ducting. “They may look like radiators,” Decca said of the main units (often). It’s called “mini splits.”), explaining that it is used “as a means of distributing air for heating and cooling purposes.”

If your home has ductwork, Air source heat pumps. It is generally the most common type.

A ducted heat pump system includes the same outdoor unit, but will connect to the ductwork in the home, assuming the home has them. “It distributes air to every room in the house using a traditional duct system,” Deka said.

Types of heat pumps

In addition to the two broad categories of air source heat pumps (ducted and non-ducted), there are several subtypes.

Air source heat pumps

As previously mentioned, air source heat pumps, whether ducted or non-ducted, tend to be the most common types found in homes and buildings throughout the United States. These work by heating or cooling the air with a refrigerant pumped outside and cooled or warmed by the outside air. them too Eligible for federal tax credits In case of purchase and installation in the home before the end of 2032: 30% of the project cost, up to a maximum of $2,000.

Geothermal heat pumps

Ground-based heat pumps use the ground beneath and around a home or structure as a heating and cooling medium, rather than ambient air. Since the ground temperature is relatively constant compared to the outside air (especially when digging a few feet), this can result in less energy use to cool down the house temperature.

Geothermal heat pumps may be better for homes in areas with more extreme climates or wider temperature fluctuations. They cost more to install because a backhoe will likely be needed. “Geothermal energy will be much more expensive because of the drilling and exploration,” Deka said. “But it may be more efficient because the ground stays at a constant temperature all year round — you’re not dealing with the constant changes that occur with outside temperatures.”

Geothermal heat pumps too Qualify for federal tax credits, on a variable scale depending on when they were installed. If installed before the end of 2032, they are eligible for a 30% tax credit, with no cap.

Absorption heat pumps

Absorption heat pumps They are actually air source heat pumps. There is an important difference: they do not run on electricity, but rather on another heat source, such as gas or solar-heated water. When used in residential buildings or residences, these heat pumps use a water-ammonia absorption cycle to facilitate heating and cooling.

These are less common than other types of heat pumps. Check with your installer and your accountant to verify whether it qualifies for federal tax credits.

Compare types of heat pumps

The specific costs involved in purchasing and installing a heat pump will depend on many factors specific to your home – the square footage, whether it has ducts, how well it is insulated, and so on. It is difficult to determine the cost of a heat pump system. On average, the average American heat pump system will cost about $5,500, according to 2023 data From the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Regarding tax incentives, note that your state and city may have additional programs to help lower purchase and installation costs. For example, Oregon has a specific program For property owners interested in installing heat pumps in rental units. As always, it’s best to know what local incentives and credits may be available to you.

Besides the ballpark costs (via the American Society of Home Inspectors, generally not including potential ductwork and permit costs), here’s a quick summary and review of the types of heat pump systems:

Types of heat pumps

Not defined

He writes a description Typical cost Federal tax incentives
Air source (ductwork) It uses the ambient air temperature for cooling and heating $3000 – $7500 Up to 30% of the cost (maximum $2,000)
Air source (ductless) It uses head units, or mini-splits, for cooling and heating $2000 – $5000 Up to 30% of the cost (maximum $2,000)
Geothermal It uses the ambient temperature of the Earth for cooling and heating $6,000 – $20,000 Up to 30% of the cost
Absorption It uses a source other than electricity to operate – typically gas or solar-heated water $4000 – $8000 Probably up to 30% of the cost

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