How an Air Source Heat Pump Works in the Winter

Air source heat pumps are gaining in popularity as a way to both help the environment and save money on a gas utility bill. In Michigan, many question if an air source heat pump can keep a home warm during the cold and brutal winter months. In this article, we will explore how an air source heat pump works in the winter to warm up our homes.

How does a heat pump work in the winter?

In the winter, an air source heat pump’s refrigerant gathers heat from the air outdoors to then be released into the home. Despite cold outdoor temperatures, the air does hold a small amount of heat, which allows it to be used to heat your home with the air source heat pump. The refrigerant gathers the heat from the cold air which is then pressurized from gas to a hot liquid. The hot liquid is transferred to indoor coils and then the heat from the refrigerant is transferred into the air moving through your air handler and distributed throughout your home.

An air source heat pump works on a loop, which allows it to be used to cool your home in the summer by extracting heat from your home. In the winter, the loop is then reversed, and warm air is gathered from the outside and brought in.  

Do I need a hybrid heating system with my air source heat pump?

While an air source heat pump is effective at warming your home, when the coldest weather hits, it could potentially be more efficient to use a different heat source. This is why we recommend a hybrid system of paring an energy efficient furnace with your air source heat pump in Michigan. An energy efficient furnace will kick in when the air source heat pump can no longer be the sole heat source for your home.

An energy efficient furnace could possibly be the more cost-effective way to heat your home during the coldest period in the winter. If your air source heat pump is continuously having to run to warm your home, you will notice a steeper increase in your energy bill making the energy efficient furnace the better choice.

What is the lowest temperature an air source heat pump can work?

A heat pump can work below freezing. The lowest temperature a heat pump can work without requiring a backup is -5°. Air source heat pumps have made many advancements over the years to be able to heat a home when the outdoor temperature is below 0°. The primary advancement is variable speed technology allowing the heat pump to extract heat from the air outdoors.

For an air source heat pump to work at these lower temperatures, it is important that your home is air sealed and well-insulated. Air sealing and insulation work together to help keep your home at a comfortable and even temperature. Air sealing will prevent the heat from the heat pump from escaping from your home in common areas such as drafty floors, doors and windows. The insulation helps hold the heat inside your home and creates an even temperature throughout.   

Does my air source heat pump need a defrost cycle?

It is important that an air source heat pump has a defrost cycle in Michigan. During the cold winter months, it is not uncommon for the heat pump to have a layer of frost or even ice. A defrost cycle can lead to cold air coming out of your vents, but it is only temporary while the frost and ice are removed from the heat pump’s coils. 

Interested in learning about an air source heat pump for your Metro Detroit home?

Contact the Ecotelligent Homes team to learn how an air source heat pump can help keep your home warm during Michigan winters.