Understanding Heat Pumps | Future House | Ask This Old House

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In this video, Ask This Old House building technology professional Ross Tretheway explains everything you need to know about heat pumps

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How Heat Pumps Work
Heat pumps work by finding and moving heat in and out of a building. A heat pump will take heat from within the home during the summer and let it dissipate outside, allowing the air conditioning system to work more efficiently. In the winter, a heat pump can scavenge heat from the outdoors (even in temperatures as low as zero degrees) and pump it into the home for comfort. The only requirement? Enough electricity to run the compressors.

Different Types of Heat Pumps
Heat pumps are becoming more and more advanced, but there are four basic types: water to water, water to air, air to air, and air to water.

Water to Water
This type of heat pump requires geothermal drilling, which means drilling into the earth to tap into its heat. The water travels below the surface, comes back up, and travels through a heat exchanger. In the heat exchanger, the source water heats the load water. The load side water then travels through the heating system just as it would a force hot water system.

Water to Air
Water to air systems require geothermal drilling to source the heat in the earth’s surface. Then, the hot water runs through a coil in a duct. When air blows across that coil, it heats up, just as it would with a furnace.

Air to Air
In an air to air system, the heat pump sources heat from the air on the load side, which is then transferred to a refrigerant. This refrigerant then travels through a coil inside the ductwork, where load side air blows across it, similar to a furnace. These are the most common heat pumps.

Air to Water
An air to water system sources heat from the air on the source side and transfers it to a refrigerant. This refrigerant then cycles through a heat exchanger where it can heat the load side water to be pumped through the house.

Once in the house, this water can serve several purposes. It can be pumped to a zone manifold for hydronic heat, cycled through a heat exchanger for domestic hot water, or even pumped through a coil to supply a ducted system. In the summer, this system can remove heat from the home, cool the refrigerant, and supply the home with cooling.

There are a ton of advantages to this system over the others. First, no drilling is required. Second, you get the efficiency of hydronics. In some cases, homeowners relying on older heating systems can expect to save thousands of dollars each year on heating costs, as well.

Where to find it?
Ross explored four different types of heat pump systems: water-to-air, water-to-water, air-to-air, and air-to-water. These heat pumps can usually be sourced through a local HVAC technician or sales representative.

The air-to-water heat pump that Ross saw being installed in upstate New York was an Advantage Air-to-Water Heat Pump manufactured by Enertech [https://enertechusa.com/advantage-air-to-water-heat-pump].

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by The Radiant Store [https://www.theradiantstoreinc.com/], Air & Water Source Group, LLC [https://www.air-watersourcegroup.store/], B&D Manufacturing, Inc. [https://www.bdmfginc.com/geothermal], Taco Comfort Solutions [https://www.tacocomfort.com/], Axiom Industries Limited [https://axiomind.com/], and Caleffi North America, Inc. [https://www.caleffi.com/usa/en-us].

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About Ask This Old House TV:
From the makers of This Old House, America’s first and most trusted home improvement show, Ask This Old House answers the steady stream of home improvement questions asked by viewers across the United States. Covering topics from landscaping to electrical to HVAC and plumbing to painting and more. Ask This Old House features the experts from This Old House, including general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor. Ask This Old House helps you protect and preserve your greatest investment—your home.

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Understanding Heat Pumps | Future House | Ask This Old House


DeKempster says:

Nice to see the US finally catching up to the 21 century.

HaploBartow says:

Whoa whoa whoa, a TOH episode that mentions prices? I thought that was forbidden…

M King says:

That air to water system is sweet, I'd like to know more about it,for a future project, thanks

Dan R says:

Heat pumps are so bloody massive. My house is tiny wtf. How noisey is it too??? Not mentioned I bet.

Paul HVAC says:

Trust me. As a HVAC technition, we are always winter busy. In fact the colder out it gets we are running off our feet. Why? because HVAC equipment breaks. Not just old stuff, but, new stuff and unfortunately, we find the newer the manufactured equipment the lesser quality products inside them.Plastic parts, thinner gauge steel ,copper and parts made by cheap labour overseas. I still service customers old 1960's atmospheric vented gas furnaces, run test on them yearly. Burn like they did brand new. Today we are constantly out fixing the newest highest efficient products. The day you do a repair out of warranty on any of these products, you can kiss your presently energy savings good-bye. Im saying energy efficiency is good and you should buy it because its what you want to do. And you have lots of money to satisfy your need for the latest and greatest. But buying it for ROI is stuff of unicorns and fairy dust. Do yourself a favour, talk to your HVAC technicians who do the repairs and emergency calls. They see it and know the reality. Don't talk to the HVAC owner, he/she is in the business of selling you things.

Brian G C says:

As a licensed HVAC contractor, I always compare cost benefits and ROI on every system we sell. The biggest benefit of these systems is space savings. Their Achilles heel is that WHEN, not IF, they break, you lose all 3 systems at once. Cold shower, no heat, etc on Saturday morning in January…… A far more economical solution is separates, with redundancy. A heat pump water heater with electric backup is better. A Carrier/Bryant 2 stage air to air heat pump for heating and cooling is more efficient and dependable than the system shown in the video. The total cost is less for separates due to the economy of scale in production. Service is never an issue since the separate units use industry standard components that 90+% of the time I have on my service trucks as standard stock parts because over 90% of the HVAC units use these same parts.
TOH has a history of showcasing new tech that never survives to grow into old tech. Been watching the show since the 70's and seen many many of these unicorns come and go.

Johnny Bussart says:

That guy doing the wiring looked dangerous!🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

DADoESofTX says:

Heat pumps aren't all that much of a new thing. All refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners are heat pumps. There were heat pumps (that cooled and heated) in the 1950s and 1960s, including window units.

Nicolas Xu says:

What is the heat output in kw for the last air to water heat pump system? Last time I check, the system that I need all requires 480v three phase electricity, which is not available to residential address. There are some 220v single phase system, but the heat output is not enough for me. For 2000 sqft, you need at least 20kw heat output. All the system is from China. I didn't find any exception. Some local distributors use their own private label.

Jakers says:

So is this basically a small chiller with a heat pump

ekujj13 says:

I’ve got 2 heat pumps. Paid a ton of money in the winter and froze my butt off. Put in a Buck Stove. Now I’m WARM and my bills are lower.

Rob L. says:

Unless you get electricity for really cheap rates, per BTU, heating with electricity is far more expensive than with natural gas.

Elly Filho says:

Why can’t they just say how much it cost for the system?

Ozzie Alarcon says:

All these systems, solar, geo thermal, etc sound really good at saving the homeowner(s) on energy costs. But what they never tell you is how expensive these types of systems cost and how it will take a LONG period of time before the homeowner(s) get to the point of breaking even. Trust me, I've been there done that.

Simon Metz says:

With all these systems, I still wonder on the electricity required to run this. I have neighbors who installed #geothermal and got great savings vs propane BUT no one warned them that they would have $500-$600 PER MONTH in electricity, I pay $1500 in propane for the entire year and $125 in power per month. These new systems are still too expensive

RangeRov49 says:

I'm in upstate NY; better raise that heat pump up higher than that!

Jonathan Burr says:

What i hate is when the high cost is always seen as "its not worth it". Heat pumps are going to need to be a thing because no matter how efficient gas is – its on a limited timescale not just climate wise, but it is literally a limited resource, maybe 50 years, sure but ill be alive in 50 years!

Joe Luongo says:

This is interesting, but…why not disclose the cost? Probably because it's expensive, I'm guessing $20-30k. That's a 10-15 year payback. Plus propane is expensive, so for oil or natural gas people these savings are not typical. Which pushes payback out even further. These systems are very complex with lots of electronics and valves. The likelihood is they will require much more and expensive repairs. Also, Air-to-Water-to-Air seems inefficient and overly complex and expensive, just to add hot water. Heat Pumps might be the future, but people need to hear the whole story for conversion. I'm seeing these biased stories everywhere.

MalikDigger454 says:

Definitely important to know how newest water pump technology the older ones will split within 10-15 years.

Marius M says:

Air to Water will give you : Radiant floor, wall, ceiling, radiators, pool heating, hydronic mini-split, DOMESTIC hot water and AC. CAN'T BEAT THAT. This technology is finally catching intrest. I work in NY and see many mini-split units in houses but in winter people don't turn them ON. It's not comfortable. It's very dry and in defrost they blow cold air. More and more people ask about Radiant heat and I believe this trend will continue…

Jeff Terrell says:

With the air to water system how do you get domestic hot water in the summer when the heat pump is in cooling mode?

Alec Minnick says:

I'll stick with my wood stove

JJY EMG says:

Looks like the payback of the investment is 5 Years or more

Fire blaster says:

Not sure about being quiet…every one I’ve seen as really noisy to annoy all the neighbours

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