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Is a Heat Pump Right for My Home? | Greater Tacoma Heat Pump Options

by Daniel Estevao on September 2, 2016

Should I buy a heat pump - Tacoma heat pump options

You have some choices when it comes to heating and cooling your home. And it’s an important choice since heating and cooling accounts for about half of your home’s total energy consumption.

average home energy use for U.S. homes

Source: eia.gov

Heating Options

You have three main choices for heating: furnace, boiler, or heat pump. While a furnace and boiler can only heat your home, a heat pump can both heat and cool your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel like combustion heating systems do.”

There are positives and negatives for each system, but a heat pump can save a lot on your natural gas usage.

home heating infographic - energy.govSource: energy.gov

A heat pump runs on electricity as opposed to a furnace or boiler, which usually runs on natural gas, heating oil, or propane. While furnaces and boilers tend to last longer (15-30 years) than heat pumps (15 years), heat pumps tend to be better for moderate climates like the Greater Tacoma area.

What is a Heat Pump?

What is a heat pump anyway? You may only be familiar with an HVAC setup that combines a central air conditioner with a furnace. This is quite common, but it might make more sense to look into your heat pump options.

Heat pumps use refrigerant to transfer heat. In the summer, the refrigerant absorbs heat from your home (in the evaporator) and then travels back to the outdoor compressor to release it outdoors.

In the winter, the reverse takes place. Heat is absorbed from the outdoor air by the outdoor coil, which now functions as the evaporator and the indoor coil as the condenser.

It’s a simple change of refrigerant flow that makes this possible.

Since these systems are able to both heat and cool your home (by transferring heat rather than generating it), they are more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. In fact, they can provide the same level of heating and cooling that you are used to for “as little as one quarter of the cost of operating conventional heating or cooling appliances” (U.S. DOE).

Ground-source heat pumps, also known as geothermal heat pumps, lose and gain heat through loops that go underground (about 6 feet below the surface). They are generally more energy-efficient and durable, but cost a lot of money to install. To help offset the installation costs, the government provides tax credits for qualifying geothermal heat pumps.

Water-source heat pumps lose and gain their heat from a body of water that doesn’t freeze in the winter or get too hot in the summer. While they are cheaper to install than geothermal heat pumps since trenches and excavation aren’t needed, they still cost more than air-source heat pumps. Also, you will need an existing water source near your building, such as a pond, well, or aquifer.

Although there are three main types of heat pumps — air-to-air, water source, and ground source — the most common type is an air-source heat pump. There are several different types of air-source heat pumps:

  • Ductless and Ducted
  • Split and Packaged
  • Multi-Zoned and Single-Zoned

There are many factors to take into account when selecting a heat pump for your home, especially its heating and cooling efficiency performance ratings.

how to measure HVAC efficiency ratingsSource: energy.gov

Call your trusted Tacoma heat pump specialists to walk you through all of your Tacoma heat pump options. What works for one home may not work for yours.

Hybrid Heating Systems

The heat pump’s major flaw is its inefficiency during extreme temperatures. During extended periods of freezing temperatures, the heat pump has difficulty extracting heat from the air. This flaw is becoming less significant, however, due to the recent advances in heat pump technology:

  • Improved coil design
  • Variable-speed blowers
  • Thermostatic expansion valves
  • Copper tubing
  • Improve refrigerant

One of the recent improvements to heat pump technology is the addition of a supplemental heating system for periods of extreme cold. These “hybrid heating” systems will switch over to their supplemental heating system, usually a gas furnace, when it is energy-efficient to do so.

In areas where winter temperatures can dip below freezing and temperatures fluctuate without warning, it might make more sense to invest in a hybrid heating system (combines the benefits of a gas furnace with the efficiency of an electric heat pump). The small hybridized mini-furnace (using electric or gas-fired heating coils) kicks on when temperatures go below 38° F.

These systems, while potentially costing more to install, can maximize your energy savings during extreme temperatures and more moderate weather days.

For more information on how your heat pump and other heating and cooling systems work, read these articles:


For your free Tacoma heat pump consultation or for professional heat pump installation, maintenance, or repair, call Pacific Air Systems at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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