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Bill's Superheat, Inc. Blog

What Are Cold Climate Heat Pumps?


Spring is the perfect time of year to evaluate your HVAC system. How are the various parts doing? Do you need to schedule maintenance or repairs? Or is it possible that it’s time to consider replacing your air conditioner or your furnace? There are some major advances that have taken place in recent years, and you could have better performance and higher efficiency with a new system.

What kind of new system? You could replace both your air conditioner and your furnace with a heat pump. No, heat pump technology isn’t new. But there have been some big changes to how—and how well—a heat pump can work in places with colder winters, as well as to the technology in general. Cold climate heat pumps are an excellent option for our area. We’ll tell you all about them.

How Heat Pumps Work

In their basic design, heat pumps are simply reversible air conditioners. Just like an air conditioner, a heat pump has a compressor. It pressurizes refrigerant, which flows through the evaporator coil, soaking up heat, and then the condenser coil, releasing heat. A heat pump has an additional component, the reversing valve, which can change the direction of the refrigerant flow.

Now, instead of only moving heat from the indoors out, this technology can move heat from the outdoors in as well. And because moving heat uses very little energy compared to the energy required to actually generate heat, these systems are incredibly efficient at heating. But how can a heat pump bring heat into your home when it’s wintry and cold outside?

Temperature Differential

For any heat pump, it does not have to be warmer outside in order for the refrigerant to transfer heat to the indoor air. It only has to be warmer than the refrigerant. Heat pumps operate via temperature differential, not absolute temperature. Traditionally, heat pumps have been considered ideal options for climates where temperatures rarely drop below freezing.

How can a heat pump work in even colder weather? Well, the key here is the refrigerant, the chemical that flows through the coils. If a different formula is used, the refrigerant can have a lower boiling point. Essentially, it will keep flowing and keep absorbing heat at temperatures that would have rendered other refrigerants useless. 

Other Energy-Efficient Advances

Adding to the already impressive efficiency of the heat pump, some recent breakthroughs in HVAC technology have made it possible for less energy to be used year-round in heat pump operation. There are three new developments you will find in high-efficiency heat pumps that have never been seen before.

  • New Materials for Coils: Coils are being made with materials that have higher thermal conductivity. They can absorb and release heat much more easily, using less energy.
  • Variable Speed Fans: Rather than being simply on or off, these fans will run in power-saving mode unless full power is absolutely required, when they’ll automatically kick into higher gear.
  • Multi-Stage Compressors: Just like those fans, these are compressors that can operate at different settings, saving full-power mode for only those times that really require it.

If you’re ready to save energy, cut your utility bills, and do the planet a favor while staying perfectly comfortable, have a conversation about cold climate heat pumps with an expert in all things HVAC in Kalispell, MT.

For all of your heat pump needs and more, contact Bill’s Superheat, Inc. today! Here to Save the Day!

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