Your Heat Pump Options
With advancements in technology, whole building comfort is on the rise, and with it, the humble Heat Pump. Heat pumps are growing in popularity in all their forms, which includes a number of options to suit the needs of different homes and businesses. All of the options highlighted below offer the key benefits of heat pump technology: both heating and cooling for year-round comfort; high efficiency, which brings energy savings; and the positive environmental impact that comes from switching from non-renewable fossil fuels to electric heating since the electric grid includes a mix of power sources that on average contribute less to global warming than in-home fossil fuel systems. In fact, over 50% of New England’s electricity already comes from zero-carbon sources, including wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear. As the electric grid shifts more towards clean and renewable sources, the environmental benefits of electric systems like heat pumps will increase as well. And if you are a Cape Light Compact Power Supply customer, you already receive 100% renewable electricity.
Heat pumps use compressors to capture heat from the surrounding air or ground and move it into or out of your home or business to keep it at a comfortable temperature. This process requires an outdoor unit, to capture or release heat, and an indoor unit, to distribute the warmth or coolness to make your indoor space comfortable. The diagram below shows compatible options for outdoor and indoor units.
- Mini-Split Heat Pumps are the outdoor units that pair with a ductless mini-split air handler. Their main purpose is to pull heat from the surrounding air during the heating season. Cold climate-rated models can do this even when temperatures are below freezing. These units are relatively small and can be installed unobtrusively next to the building and should be raised up at least 12 inches off the ground so that they do not get blocked by leaves or snow.
- Ductless Mini-Split Air Handlers are wall or ceiling-mounted indoor units that gently blow warm or cool air to keep your space comfortable without requiring ductwork. A Ductless Mini-Split Air Handler heats and cools a room or area, rather than a whole building, making it a great choice for adding heat to areas of your home or business space that tend to be colder, or cooling areas with a unit that is quieter and more efficient than a window AC. With relatively low installation costs, you can also place mini-split air handlers in central areas of your home or space to reduce your use of an existing heating system, without replacing it.
- Multi-Zone Air Source Heat Pumps are typically larger versions of a mini-split heat pump, allowing them to heat and cool whole homes or buildings, and can be used with multiple ductless mini-split air handlers or a ducted air delivery system. Like the mini-split heat pump, cold climate models can operate with outdoor temperatures well below freezing and should be raised slightly off the ground to make sure the airflow does not become blocked.
- Ducted Air Vents, found inside your home or business, deliver warm or cool forced air to keep your space comfortable. Ducting connects to a single air handler that blows the conditioned air through the ducting in your walls and ceilings and out the vents. If you have an existing ducted air delivery system in your home or business, it is simple to retrofit your existing heating and cooling system by installing a heat pump. Multiple types of heat pumps can connect with ducted air delivery systems, including central heat pumps, multi-zone air source heat pumps, and geothermal heat pumps.
- Central Heat Pumps may look like a traditional outdoor AC unit, but they provide both heating and cooling like other heat pumps. These units function and have requirements like other outdoor air source heat pump units, including being raised to remain unobstructed as they pull heat from the surrounding air. Central heat pumps are typically paired with a ducted air delivery system, allowing them to heat and cool whole homes or buildings.
- Air-to-Water Heat Pumps operate similar to mini-split, multi-zone air source, and central heat pumps, by pulling heat from the surrounding air, but rather than pairing with an air handler to deliver conditioned air into your home or business, they work with a hydronic system that circulates hot water to heat your space.
- Geothermal Heat Pumps, also called ground-source heat pumps, pull heat from the ground instead of the air to keep your space comfortable. Because the ground is a more stable temperature these systems are more efficient in cold temperatures than air source heat pumps. Not to be confused with geothermal energy, these heat pumps use the stable temperature of the ground, not heat trapped in the earth’s crust. Due to part of the system being installed in the ground, a ground loop that is buried at least 4-6 feet deep, geothermal heat pumps cost more to install than systems that use heat from the air. Geothermal heat pumps can be paired with either air or hydronic (water) heat delivery systems within your space.
- Geothermal Heat Pump Ground Loops are the underground systems that transfer heat from the ground into your home or building, or vice versa. There are multiple possible ground loop configurations to work with different space constraints and building types, including horizontal ground loops, which use a larger area but are not as deep; and vertical ground loops, which need less space but require drilled wells, making installation more costly.
- Radiant Floor Heat is a hydronic, or water-based, heat delivery system that works well with air to water or geothermal heat pumps because the required water temperature is relatively low compared to baseboards or most radiators. Radiant floor heat runs warm water through pipes laid into the floor, allowing heat to radiate up from the floor to heat your space. It is very efficient and cozy but can be costly to retrofit into an existing home. Radiant floor cooling is possible, but only with specific system configurations to avoid condensation on your floors. For those interested in AC, radiant floor systems can be paired with fan coils, which use cold water to cool the air that they then deliver into your space.
No matter which technology best suits your needs, Cape Light Compact offers rebates for all of these heat pump options: https://www.capelightcompact.org/heating-and-cooling-rebates/