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All homeowners strive to find the home comfort system that will best serve their needs year-round, while also fitting within their energy budget. Most Canadians rely on air conditioning during the warmer months and a furnace when it gets cold outside.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a device that does both?

Heat pump installed at the side of a red brick house.

Heat pumps offer just that.

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps are not a new product.  The basic principle is it removes heat from the air and extracts it either internally or externally from your home. The unit’s compressor pumps refrigerant between a pair of heat exchange coils. The first coil causes the refrigerant to evaporate and absorb heat. While on-route to the second coil, the refrigerant compresses. Upon arrival, it condenses at high pressure, releasing any heat absorbed.

If that sounds like the opposite of what refrigerators and air conditioners do, you’re right. But this type of heat pump can also perform the reverse function, turning warm air into cool air. The switch happens via the unit’s reversing valve.

Indoor and Outdoor

Just as a furnace/air conditioner HVAC system has mechanisms on both the inside and outside of a home, heat pumps consist of indoor and outdoor components. In contrast, the heat pump’s two halves work together simultaneously.

These provide your living space with both warm or cold air when desired. Unlike a furnace, which is constantly generating heat, the heat pump is always moving existing warm air throughout the home. This makes for highly efficient distribution of heat.

The unit does not use fuel, like many furnaces, running instead on electricity. Like all electrical products sold in Canada, the Canadian Standards Association certifies heat pumps for electrical safety, so look for the CSA seal when shopping for one.

Your Furnace and Heat Pump Can Work Together

While it seems unlikely this time of year in Canada, it is always possible to extract some heat energy from even the most frigid air outside. The heat pump then does its magic and circulates this available heat throughout your home.

Heat pumps are a great choice, but they cannot replace a furnace in most parts of Canada. Most experts feel that once the temperature dips below -15°C in winter time, the warmth circulated by a heat pump is no longer enough. However, heat pumps can work quite well in conjunction with a furnace by acting as a back-up.

If you are looking to upgrade your old furnace and add a heat pump or just add a heat pump to your existing furnace, input from a home comfort expert is invaluable. They will take into consideration where you live, your home heating needs and, if you decide on a heat pump/furnace combination, which units would work best together.