Everyone knows that Air Conditioning units cool, but did you know they can also heat?
One of the most common configurations for an AC system includes an outside unit, called a condenser or condensing unit and a furnace or air handler located in your house (closet, attic, garage, etc). The condensing unit provides cooling to the home by circulating refrigerant through the system which absorbs heat energy inside and gives it off outside. Heat is produced in the air handler or furnace by consuming some type of fuel. Fossil fuels are used in furnaces (ex. natural gas), and electricity is used in air handlers.
In our area, air handlers with electric heat are more common than furnaces. While a reliable and effective source of heat, electric heat strips (the component that produces heat in the air handler) are very inefficient and expensive to operate. In this process, electrical energy is being converted directly to heat energy. To produce more heat, more electricity must be consumed. Think of it as a 1 to 1 relationship, one unit of energy to make one unit of heat.
Gas furnaces are much more efficient than electric heat strips, but even the smallest furnaces are often 2 to 3 times more powerful than what is required to comfortably heat your home. They are also more expensive to purchase. If you already have natural gas service in your home, a gas furnace is a good way to go. If you don’t, you’re better off getting a heat pump.
So what is a heat pump?
A heat pump is a condensing unit with a few added components, not an actual pump or individual part. From the outside, it looks exactly like a condensing unit. The added components allow the process or air conditioning to be reversed to heat the home. When your thermostat calls for heat, the reversing valve redirects the flow of refrigerant; heat is absorbed outside and given off inside. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there is still a lot of heat energy in the air at 40 degrees or even 20. A heat pump cost more than a condensing unit, but can save you a lot of money on your winter utility bills, especially if it’s a cold year. That’s because it is more efficient to move heat that convert it from electricity (3 to 4 times more efficient with conventional equipment). The warmer the air outside, the more efficient heat pumps become. This is why heat pumps are so popular in areas with mild climates, such as in Orlando.
If you have any questions about heat pumps or some of the new high-efficiency air conditioning systems out there, call us today at 407-408-7105 and let Downtown Air & Heat educate you on the benefits of these new systems.