Heat pumps seem to be all the rage these days. But do they really work in the frigid north?

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How Does a Heat Pump Work?

A heat pump is a device that moves heat from one place to another. It does this by circulating a refrigerant through an evaporation/condensation cycle that takes place in two heat exchanger coils. At the end of the cycle, the heat is released.

One great feature about heat pumps is that they work in reverse – heat pumps not only provide heat in the winter, they can cool (and dehumidify!) your house in the summer.


Heat Pumps: Your Options

Air-to-Air Heat Pumps

Also called, air-source heat pumps, air-to-air heat pumps absorb the natural warmth from the air outside your home. A forced air system, either your existing system or one that will be put in during heat pump installation, distributes the warm air evenly throughout your home. Air-to-air heat pumps also work in reverse, as mentioned above.

But a heat pump in Canada? Where’s the “natural warmth” from November to March?

The ground and outside air always contain some heat even when it really doesn’t feel like it. Actually, according to Natural Resources Canada, air at –18°C contains about 85 percent of the heat it did at 21°C. So there is heat there to extract, even in a Canadian winter.

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Geothermal Heat Pumps

Also called, ground-source or geo-exchange heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps absorb heat from the ground, rather than the air. And because the ground below the frost line stays fairly constant all year round, these heat pumps can also draw heat from the outdoors even in winter. Geothermal heat pumps also cool in the summer.


The Advantages of Heat Pumps

Climate Control All Year Round – Heat in the winter…cool air in the summer. All in one system. Enough said.

Uniform Heat Distribution – Heat pumps allows you to maintain uniform temperatures throughout your home.

Optimum Energy Efficiency – Heat pumps are highly efficient – producing 3 to 5 units of energy for every one unit of electricity they require.


The Disadvantages of Heat Pumps

Heat Pump Prices – Heat pump systems have higher installation costs than many other types of heating systems. And if you try to put one in an existing home, heat pump installation can be even more problematic. Heat pump prices may vary, so always get several quotes before making any decisions. And be sure to check whether there may be any financial incentives for installing energy efficient technology in your home.

Heat Pump Installation – Heat pump installation is fairly disruptive, particularly if you require a forced air system to be installed simultaneously. Geothermal heat pump installation tends to be more troublesome, as your yard must be dug up to install the underground pipe system.