Why Single-family Builders Should Consider Heat Pumps

When it comes to heating and cooling homes or creating domestic hot water in Northern California—which features a mild, Mediterranean-type climate—heat pumps are a great alternative to air conditioners (AC), furnaces, or boilers. Heat pumps provide exceptional efficiency, can help enhance safety and indoor air quality, and offer builders an opportunity to secure up-front cost savings when building new homes.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump uses a vapor-compression refrigeration cycle system that can be reversed to either heat or cool a controlled space. In simpler terms, a heat pump works in a virtually identical fashion to ACs—when cooling, they remove heat from inside the living area and transport it outside. However, heat pumps can reverse the conditioning process, allowing them to move heat inside during the cold season and warm the living area. This same technology can be used for water heating, pulling heat out of the ambient air and pumping it into a hot water tank. To learn more about the technical features of heat pumps, please read this article by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Heat pump benefits

In climates with moderate heating and cooling demand, such as Northern California, heat pumps provide excellent benefits to owners and residents.

Note, there are many different configurations of HVAC systems that can combine heat pumps with more familiar technologies. Please perform an analysis to determine your most cost-effective option(s) or reach out to CAHP at CAHP@trcompanies.com for technical assistance.

Homeowner Benefits

Recent studies have found that homes labeled as energy efficient have higher valuations than standard homes, which builders can use for marketing purposes.

Disadvantages

While heat pumps offer many benefits, there are some potential disadvantages to consider. Many contractors are most comfortable with sizing and installing conventional technologies such as ACs and furnaces and are less familiar with heat pump installation processes. As with any building equipment, choosing the correct size of heat pump is essential—choosing too small or large a unit can cause inefficiencies that waste energy.

There are two configurations of heat pumps: ducted and ductless . Ducted heat pumps use the home’s air distribution ducts, just like an AC or furnace. Ductless heat pumps use heads: a rectangle box on a wall, to distribute the conditioned air and typically have higher efficiencies. Some find that ductless heat pumps, aesthetically, can be an eye sore when compared to a centrally ducted air system.

While heating and air conditioning is the largest consumer of energy in homes, water heating consumes the second most energy. Heat pump water heaters (HPWH) use a similar heat transfer technology to heat water, as described in the previous sections. While more efficient than traditional gas water heaters during normal use, HPWHs take more time to bring hot water up to desired temperature. Therefore, periods of heavy hot water use such as several consecutive showers may prompt the HPWH to switch to standard electric resistance heat to serve to the higher demand, which lowers efficiency and increases utility bills.

If you have any questions or concerns about heat pumps, please reach out to CAHP@trccompanies.com.