Heat pumps. They are something we’ve mentioned a lot over the years. In particular, we’ve mentioned the ductless heat pump the last few years as a good choice for steady, inexpensive heat in our climate for a relatively small investment. Today we’re going to sing their praises again. If you have an older house that is in need of a new heating system, make sure to keep reading!
HOW HEAT PUMPS WORK
In this climate, a heat pump is an efficient way to heat and cool a house. The technology of a heat pump basically recovers heat from outside air and transfers it to inside your house. Fans circulate air past coils outside to capture the heat. Then it goes via a high pressure closed-loop refrigerant line to a coil inside the house where another fan circulates air past the inside coil which is heated by the gas.
In the summer, it will do the reverse –pulling the heat out of the inside air then blowing it off at the outside heat pump. The returning refrigerant gas cools the coil and is circulated in the house.
The next iteration of this technology were ductless heat pumps, which are just as they sound, not needing duct work to covey the heat or cooling. Their benefits are many. Here are a few:
They do not pollute.
They are relatively easy and inexpensive to install and sometimes come with a rebate from the PUD. (See below.)
They provide clean air – good for folks with allergies and health concerns.
No ductwork in or under your house, saving that floor space for what you want it for and saving you money on installation cost.
They are inexpensive to operate – paying for themselves in just a few years and lasting 20 years!
They are easy to maintain.
They help to keep your home healthy.
We think the drawbacks are few, but we do need to mention them:
The heating units are visible so the location of both the exterior and interior units might initially be a practical or aesthetic concern.
If the electrical power goes out, you lose your heat – unless you have a compatible generator or another backup source.
IT WILL HEAT WHAT IT CAN SEE
To be most efficient, you will want the inside ductless heat pump unit located where it can see the most main living areas possible – living room, dining room and kitchen – where the space is more open and where you spend most of your time. If it can also see down a hallway it may also heat it and the rooms connected when doors are left open.
A house that’s chopped up with lots of little rooms will not benefit as much as one with a more open floor plan. However, either way you may want to have some kind of backup heat in the bedrooms.
The ductless air heating units are about three feet wide and a foot tall and protrude from the wall about one foot. Using the remote control, they have control features so the air flow can be pointed just the way it is needed in your house.
To maintain a ductless heat pump, you just need to open the unit and rinse the filters in the sink, dry them and put them back in the unit. If treated correctly the filters shouldn’t wear out. Can you tell we really like this heating device?
BEGIN TO CONSIDER FOR THE FUTURE
In our experience, most homes need just one ductless unit and the cost will vary with different homes, but runs about $4,200 installed for a 1-ton unit. Getting bids for like equipment and warranties is best practice.
As we mentioned last week, the Grays Harbor PUD has a rebate program for heat pumps.
To be eligible for a heat pump rebate, the heating system must have electricity as the primary heat source. The rebates range from $500 to $1,200, with heat pumps replacing forced air furnaces receiving on the higher end, because the energy savings are more.
For a ductless heat pump, the rebate is $900, after a pre-inspection and energy audit of the home.
As we mentioned earlier, a ductless heat pump will provide most of what you need to keep your home at a comfortable temperature 90 percent of the time.
However, if we get a long-lasting, deep cold snap, there simply isn’t enough heat in the air for it to extract, so some sort of backup heat is suggested. Keeping your old system as backup could make up the difference for short term needs.
You may want to have something like a furnace-rated propane or gas fireplace or pellet stove for those very, very cold days instead. Regular fireplaces are poor heat units and BBQ or other non-vented appliance used inside the home are death-traps!