If you’re switching out a furnace to a heat pump you probably have a lot of questions. For instance, do you have electricity, natural gas, or propane? These different energy sources will require a different type of heating and cooling source. So it’s important to talk about the most common questions about heat pumps and natural gas.
Do Heat Pumps Work on Natural Gas?
Natural gas is the most common heat source for absorption heat pumps, also known as gas-fired heat pumps. There are absorption or gas-fired coolers available that work on the same principle. An absorption heat pump is typically what you would use if you have natural gas, as natural gas is currently the cheapest form of energy. However, unlike some absorption heat pumps, these are not reversible and cannot serve as a heat source as well as a cooling source. They must do one or the other.
Residential absorption heat pumps use an ammonia and water absorption cycle to provide heating and cooling. Like a standard heat pump, the refrigerant or in this case, ammonia, is condensed in one coil to release its heat. It’s then pressurized, reduced, and the refrigerant is evaporated to absorb heat. If the system absorbs heat from the interior of your home it can provide cooling to the house. If it releases heat to the interior it will provide heating.
The difference in absorption heat pumps is that the evaporated ammonia is not pumped up in pressure as in a compressor, typical to a normal heat pump. Instead, it is absorbed into the water. This relatively low power pump can pump the solution up to a higher pressure. The issue becomes removing the ammonia from the water and that’s where the heat source comes in. The heat boils the ammonia out of the water and starts the cycle over.
These absorption heat pumps typically make sense in homes without an electricity source but they have an added advantage in that they can make use of any heat source including solar energy, geothermal hot water, and others. They can be zoned to keep different parts of the house at different temperatures as well. However, they’re not ideal for every situation.
Can a heat pump replace a gas furnace?
Sometimes. What a heat pump technically does is transfer heat from one location to another. During the cooler seasons, it takes heat out of the outside air and transfers it to the inside. The reverse is true during the warmer months where it works like an air-conditioner taking the heat out of the house and transferring it outside.
Dual fuel systems may also be an ideal option. For comfort and efficiency, both types of fuel systems, heat pumps and furnaces can be used in both the gas furnace and is a form of supplemental heat. The heat pump can be capable of heating the home more efficiently than a furnace but may not keep up when temperatures drop really low. In this case, the furnace can kick in and take over for the heat pump.
Natural gas is naturally the cheapest option and most cold regions. The upfront cost for installing a heat pump is usually cheaper than the cost to install a furnace, however, it may not be the best option for you. If you run on natural gas, an electric AC unit, and natural gas furnace might be the best combination for your needs. Every home is different so it’s important to have an on-site estimate to determine what works best for your home.
Ready to inspect, install or repair the HVAC system in your home or have more questions? Give Three Rivers Heating a call today!
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