It would be an understatement to say that we get a lot of questions about heat pumps. At this point, most Atlantic Canadians know someone who has recently installed one or more heat pumps in their home, but most of us still don’t know very much about them or how they work.
Below, we’ve collected some of the most common questions we get, along with brief answers. If you’d like more details, follow the links in each section for more in-depth explanations.
1. How do heat pumps work?
At a basic level, heat pumps function by moving thermal energy (i.e. heat) from one area to another. Refrigerators or air conditioners use this same technique to move heat out of an area to keep that area cool. Heat naturally moves from warmer places to cooler places, in the same way that water naturally flows downhill. Heat pumps reverse this natural flow by moving heat from cooler areas to warmer areas, just like how water pumps can move water uphill against gravity.
In the winter, heat pumps will transfer thermal energy from the air outdoors to the air inside your home, heating it. In the summer, this process can be reversed to help keep your home cool. For a more detailed answer, check out our page on how heat pumps work.
2. Do heat pumps work in cold weather?
When people learn that heat pumps work by moving heat from outdoors to indoors, their first question is usually, “Do heat pumps work in the winter?” The simple answer is that even when the air outdoors feels cold to us, it still contains a large amount of thermal energy that can be used to heat your home.
When the air gets VERY cold, heat pump efficiency will drop because it takes more electricity to extract the thermal energy to heat your home. In Atlantic Canada, we are generally pretty lucky to have very few cold days. When we do experience them, it’s always best to have a backup heat source available to help give your home that extra little boost of warmth you’ll need.
3. Should I cover my heat pump in winter?
There is a common misconception that heat pumps should be covered by a tarp or other material in the winter to keep snow off of them. While you should keep your heat pump clear of snow, there are better ways to handle this. Your heat pump needs clear airflow in order to work properly. If you cover the heat pump with something that restricts airflow, your heat pump will be much less efficient.
That said, it’s important to keep your heat pump clear of accumulated snow or ice that could also restrict airflow. Some people choose to build a small roof over their heat pump’s outdoor unit to help prevent snow from accumulating on the unit, but you should still make a habit of clearing any accumulated snow after any major snowfall.
4. Are heat pumps better for the environment?
Since heat pumps don’t need to directly burn fossil fuels to heat your home, they do help to reduce carbon emissions. However, in Atlantic Canada, much of our electricity comes from burning coal or natural gas, so the obvious question is whether switching to a heat pump will actually have any positive effect at all.
Fortunately, heat pumps are much more efficient than other methods of home heating, which means that it takes less energy to heat your home using a heat pump than any other heating solution. Reducing the amount of energy required to heat your home does help reduce emissions, even if your electricity comes from fossil fuels. If you have your own solar panels or get electricity from other clean energy sources, that makes heat pumps even better for the environment.
5. Will a heat pump save me money?
There’s a short answer to this one—in almost all cases, switching your home heating solution to a heat pump will save you a significant amount of money. The exact numbers depend on a number of different factors, including the construction and layout of your home, your current heating solution, and how you currently use your heating system. However, you can get a good estimate of how much you would save by using our Heat Pump Savings Calculator or head over to our dealer locator to find the nearest certified dealer near you. They will be able to evaluate your unique space and find the best heating and cooling solution tailored for your home.
6. Do I need an air conditioner if I have a heat pump?
If you’re researching heat pumps online, you may stumble across blog posts talking about how heat pumps don’t do enough to keep homes cool in the summer. While this may be true in some climates, most homeowners in Atlantic Canada will find their heat pumps to be more than powerful enough to keep their homes comfortable in the kinds of summer temperatures we get here.
Atlantic Canada is actually one of the best regions in North America for heat pumps, because it’s extremely rare for the outside temperature to get to a point that heat pumps can’t handle, whether you’re talking about cold in the winter or heat in the summer.
7. How do I maintain a heat pump?
Heat pumps are relatively robust pieces of equipment. Some basic heat pump maintenance combined with occasional professional servicing should keep your heat pump functioning at peak efficiency for years.
For best results, we recommend scheduling annual maintenance with a trained professional to help catch any issues before they cause trouble. Find an authorized Daikin dealer near you to make sure you’re getting the best service.