Sound Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Heat Pumps’

Consider Installing a Heat Pump This Summer

Monday, April 4th, 2016

The weather is starting to heat up, which means that you’re soon going to be relying on your climate control system to keep cool on a daily basis. If you’re in the market for a new air conditioning system, you should take a look at the benefits of heat pumps. Read on to find out more about heat pump systems, and the benefits that they offer.

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Ground Source vs. Air Source: Which Kind of Heat Pump Is Better?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Heat pumps are becoming more common, and that has caused a huge jump in demand for accurate information and advice on their selection and operations. The question “which kind of heat pump is better?” has become quite common, and it’s not hard to see why. Homeowners are always careful to make sure that they get the best fit for their needs and their home. They don’t want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in a system that isn’t going to take good care of them. With that in mind, let’s attempt to answer this question.

Air Source Heat Pumps

The core of this question has to do with where the heat pump gets the thermal energy that it uses to heat the home. First, though, let’s discuss how heat pumps work. A heat pump is not a combustion-based system, like a furnace or a boiler. Those systems create heat by burning some kind of fuel. Instead, a heat pump draws heat from one area and deposits it in another.

Air source heat pumps do this by using two different units, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit is installed outside the house, while the indoor unit is installed inside. When the heat is turned on, the outdoor unit will siphon thermal energy from the surrounding air and send it inside to heat the house.

Like all heat pumps, an air source heat pump is very energy efficient in most cases and will save money on heating bills. However, in climates that routinely reach sub-zero temperatures there isn’t enough thermal energy to make an air source heat pump worth it.

Ground Source

Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps draw their heat from the ground instead of the air. They do this by relying on an underground pipe loop filled with refrigerant. When the heater turns on, it cycles this refrigerant through the main unit and siphons heat from it instead of the air. This solves the problem with air source heat pumps because the temperature underground remains fairly constant, regardless of the weather outside. Thus, they always have a renewable heat source to draw on. Unfortunately, they also require more space to install the loop.

If you’d like to know more, call Sound Heating. We provide heating services throughout Tacoma.

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Common Heat Pump Problems in Tacoma

Monday, January 6th, 2014

In towns like Tacoma, heating repair companies handle heat pumps as often as they handle more traditional gas furnaces. Heat pumps essentially combine the functions of a heater and an air conditioner into one, resulting in a more efficient means of conditioning the air in your home. They work especially well in climates like ours, where the winters are fairly mild and homeowners have HVAC needs throughout the year. But just like any other appliance, heat pumps can experience problems, requiring the services of a trained professional to correct. Here’s a quick breakdown of common heat pump problems in Tacoma.

Heat pumps use the same basic technology as air conditioners, which means their problems are pretty much the same. One common development is a leak in refrigerant gas, which can interfere with the heat pump’s ability to generate cool (and warm) air. Refrigerant needs to be at a specific level if the heat pump is to work the way it should. When those levels are out of balance, frost forms on the evaporator coils, representing lost cooling potential and further hampering the pump’s ability to do its job. Simply scraping the frost off won’ fix the problem: the source of the leak needs to be sealed and refrigerant levels recharged before the system will function again.

Other problems are a little easier for laymen to grasp. For example, the fan motor can overheat, shutting the fan down and preventing the heat pump from moving conditioned air into your home. Clogs and blockages can form in various lines, preventing water from draining or keeping air from moving where it’s supposed to. Dust and dirt can build up to create friction between moving parts and eventually create breakdowns within individual components.

All of these spell the same thing: repair bills, inefficiency and a loss of heating and cooling power just when you need it the most. To correct common heat pump problems, the Tacoma heating system repair technicians at Sound Heating are at your disposal. Our trained heating system professionals can pinpoint the problem and get your system up and running again before you know it. Give us a call today to set up an appointment!

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What Types of Different Heat Pumps Are There?

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Although heat pumps have existed for decades, over the last twenty years they have rocketed to the top of the list of HVAC systems people want installed in their homes. It’s easy to see why they have achieved such popularity: they take care of air conditioning and heating in a single unit.

As with any heating system, heat pumps come in a variety of models and types. To help you navigate the options available, we’ll run over the main types to consider. Get in touch with Sound Heating if you want more information about heating service in Puyallup, WA.

Air source heat pumps

The most common type of heat pump uses air as the medium of heat exchange. When acting as an air conditioner, they draw heat from your indoor air and remove it to the air outdoors. For heating, they reverse the process, drawing heat from the outdoor air and placing it indoors. Although these heat pumps have high energy efficiency (a family of four can see savings of 30%-40% on their heating bills if they switch from a furnace), they can struggle with providing effective heat during temperatures that drop freezing.

Ground source heat pumps

These are also called geothermal systems, since they use the earth itself as the medium for heat exchange. Through coils buried in the ground around a home, they draw heat to move indoors—and can reverse the direction to put heat back into the ground. Because the temperature of the earth remains fairly steady at a level of 10 feet below the surface, these pumps rarely encounter trouble from heavy cold weather. They also provide even greater energy savings. However, they do not work for all homes and can cost much more to install than other systems.

Mini split heat pumps

These heat pumps—usually air-source—do not use ducts to distribute heated or cooled air. Instead, the outdoor unit hooks up to various individual blower units mounted in different rooms (or “regions”) throughout your home. These blowers send the conditioned air directly into your living spaces. Mini split systems are ideal for new homes that do not have any ductwork installed.

The kind of heat pump you need for your house will depend on many factors, and it requires the work of an HVAC expert to balance all of them and come up with an answer to the question: “What heat pump will provide me the best performance and energy-efficiency?” You will also need experts to handle the installation (ground-source heat pumps in particular involve extensive work) so that your new system will operate as it should with few repair needs in the future.

Trust your heating in Puyallup, WA to Sound Heating. We’ve served the Greater Puget Sound area since 1989.

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Why Heat Pump Short Cycling is a Problem

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Heat pumps combine the functions of an air conditioner and a heater into a single unit. In the summer, a heat pump cools the air inside your home while releasing heat into the air outside. In the winter, that process is reversed: releasing heat into the air in your home and cooling the air outside. They work extremely well in towns with mild weather like Puyallup; heating repair services often treat them in addition to handling problems with traditional gas furnaces.  If you notice your heat pump short cycling (turning on and off rapidly multiple times throughout the day) it could indicate a number of different problems from an oversized heat pump to a faulty thermostat to a malfunctioning fan motor. Whatever the cause, however, it needs to be addressed before the issue gets out of hand. Here’s why heat pump short cycling is a problem.

Heat pumps use more energy when they turn on and off than they do at any other time in the heating process. The effort required to power up and get up to speed (or power down and shut off) is far greater than simply running once it all kicks in. Furthermore, the process of turning the pump on creates much more strain and stress on individual components than running at a clip: increasing the chances of a breakdown and hastening the point when that component needs to be replaced.

Thus, a heat pump that cycles on and off rapidly throughout the day will work harder to cool your home – raising energy costs and hitting you with a higher monthly bill to do the same job – while increasing the risk of a more serious breakdown and even more repair costs in the future.

In Puyallup, heating repair services are offered by Sound Heating, who understand why heat pump short cycling is a problem. Our trained Puyallup heating repair service professionals can hunt down the source of the issue and restore your heat pump to standard operating condition. Don’t waste money by ignoring a cycling heat pump. Give us a call to set up an appointment today.

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Frequently Asked Heating Questions

Monday, April 15th, 2013

A professionally installed and maintained heater is a technological marvel. Today’s furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps are highly efficient, and they perform well under even the coldest winter temperatures. But homeowners throughout the Bellevue, WA area often ask about their home heating systems. We understand that you probably have some questions and concerns about how your heater operates. We believe a well-informed client is a good thing: it allows you to identify problems before they become serious, and it gives you some info to impress your friends and family. We’d like to address some frequently asked heating questions in this post. For more information, or to schedule a Bellevue WA heating service, contact the experts at Sound Heating today!

  • What is a programmable thermostat? If you haven’t yet taken advantage of a digital programmable thermostat, then you’re missing out on fully customizable temperature control as well as improved energy efficiency, up to $180 per year, according to the EPA. A programmable thermostat is not only more accurate, but it allows you to create a schedule for your heating and cooling systems, so that you don’t pay for unnecessary energy usage while staying comfortable.
  • Is there anything I can do to maintain my heater? Yes! You can start by cleaning and replacing your air filter at least once a month during the peak heating season. The air filter is responsible for preventing dust and debris accumulation, both of which can negatively impact the efficiency and effectiveness of your heater. You can also make sure to keep and the area surrounding your heater clean and clear.
  • What’s a heat pump? A heat pump is a highly efficient heat transfer machine. Unlike a furnace, the heat pump draws on the ambient thermal energy of the outside air, which is available even during cold temperatures. It works just like an air conditioner, except that instead of only being able to remove heat from your home, it also works the other way. However, it can become inefficient at temperatures below 35°, so people often pair a furnace with a heat pump to maximize performance and efficiency.

To reach a Bellevue, WA heating specialist, feel free to contact Sound Heating today!

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AC Question: Do Heat Pumps Work for Air Conditioning?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

It’s possible that in the course of your search for a new air conditioning system in Tacoma, you read or were told about heat pumps. Doesn’t sound right, does it – heat pumps providing cooling for your home? Regardless of the seeming misnomer, heat pumps are actually much older and more reliable cooling technology than you know. And once you understand how these units work, the name makes much more sense.

What Is a Heat Pump?

Technically every refrigerant containing air conditioner is some form of heat pump. A heat pump is a device that removes heat from one area and transfers it to another. So, in the case of your air conditioner, warm air cycles into the condenser, the heat is removed, and the cooled air is circulated back through your home. The actual science behind this is slightly more complicated, but the gist is simple – cold air isn’t produced and then pumped into your home; warm air is removed.

Your refrigerator and freezer operate under the same principle. It works so well that it’s been a standard technology for nearly 100 years, albeit with quite a few upgrades and enhancements. So, if an air conditioner already is a heat pump, why are these devices called something different? Because heat pumps can do so much more.

Heat Producing Heat Pumps

A true heat pump can work in two directions. It can extract heat from your home or it can extract heat from outside and pump it into your home. A true heat pump offers year round climate control because it both heats and cools – not too shabby if you think about the cost of a furnace and central AC system. And with modern green technology, heat pumps can even be connected to geothermal systems that draw their energy from the earth – saving a tremendous amount of money.

So, back to the main question – should you purchase a heat pump for your Tacoma air conditioning needs? The short answer is “it depends”. For the most part, a heat pump is comparable to the same air conditioning model in terms of energy efficiency and capacity. The major difference is its ability to heat your home. So, if you are interested in ditching the furnace or boiler, it may be a great upgrade. If not, a standard air conditioner can get the job done equally well. For help choosing the right system for your home, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. a call!

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Heating Installation Tip: Pros and Cons of Various Heating Systems

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

When it comes time to install a new heating system in your Tumwater home, there are a lot of options to consider. Many people get overwhelmed when confronted with all of the furnaces, boilers and heat pumps on the market these days. So, to help you get a handle on what each has to offer and which will offer you the best benefits, here is an overview of the modern heating system market.


Furnaces are the core of a forced air heating system and use gas, oil or electricity to heat air which is then circulated through your home by a blower in your air handler. Furnaces are among the most fuel efficient heating systems on the market today with options available at up to 95% AFUE (meaning it uses up to 95% of the fuel consumed to produce heat). They are also inexpensive to install and while they don’t last quite as long as boilers, they are highly efficient when well cared for.


Boilers use gas, oil or electricity to heat water or steam which is then circulated through your home into radiators or baseboard heaters. The heated water or steam releases heat into your home and heats it in turn. While not quite as energy efficient as a high efficiency furnace, boiler heat is perfect for homes with existing radiators and no room for vents and ductwork. It also has less of an impact on indoor air quality since there is no air movement and boilers tend to last a very long time when well maintained.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular, especially in milder climates where it rarely gets below 40 degrees F. A heat pump uses the same technology as an air conditioner to extract heat from outside using a compressor, evaporator coils, and condenser coils with refrigerant.

It is most efficient in the spring and fall when temperatures are mild, but it uses much less energy than either a boiler or furnace and it can be used in the summer to cool your home. When properly maintained, a heat pump will last 10-20 years and save quite a bit of money, though it is recommended that you have an emergency heat source for days when the temperature outside gets below 40 degrees F.

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Guide from Sammamish: How to Maintain High Efficiency Filters to Reduce Stress on Your Heat Pump

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The filter on your heat pump is an integral part of your Sammamish home’s comfort system. Without that filter, the device will quickly be subjected to an influx of debris and contaminants that can get into the machinery and the air being filtered into your home. As a result, you need to make sure you properly maintain the filters to reduce stress on your heat pump.

Change Your Filters

High efficiency filters are designed to remove as much of the airborne contaminants in the air as possible. This is fantastic for keeping your indoor air clean. But if you don’t properly maintain the filter, air quality can worsen and your heat pump is put under unnecessary stress. Specifically, the extremely tight knit filter, designed to stop nearly anything from getting through, gets clogged.

Now your heat pump is forced to work much harder to draw the air it needs from outside and heat or cool your home. On top of that, the filter is filled with contaminants that can start to leak back into the air supply, actually making your indoor air quality worse than it would be otherwise. That’s why it is so important to clean your filters on a regular basis (for permanent filters) and replace them if they are one time use.

Recommended Filters

You have options as to which types of filters you use for your heat pump. Filters come in multiple options, from super high MERV rated filters that trap up to 99% of all contaminants as small as 0.3 microns.

Electrostatic filters are especially efficient because they extract contaminants of all types – from dust and mold to smoke and gas fumes. A good filtration system should effectively remove anything from the air without needing replacement too often.

Permanent filters tend to offer the best protection against airborne contaminants and generally need to be cleaned once a month. HEPA filters are often permanent and while each filter is different, these are often extremely effective at minimizing contaminants in the air without putting stress on your heat pump.

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Heating Tip: EnergyStar Rated Heat Pumps

Monday, December 12th, 2011

You are almost certainly familiar with EnergyStar ratings. They are those little stars you see on a lot of common household appliances, consumer electronics and other products for your Puyallup home. EnergyStar is a government program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to identify and clearly label products that meet strict efficiency guidelines. Products that carry the EnergyStar logo have been shown to be among the most highly efficient out there.

This labeling is important and arguably becoming more so every day. Homeowners want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the appliances in their homes are running efficiently, helping the environment and saving them money.

But have you ever wondered how a product gets to wear that EnergyStar logo? What are the guidelines it has to meet or exceed in order to be approved?

The short answer is that it varies across product lines, as you might expect. An air conditioner is very different from a personal computer. For heat pumps, though, there are some pretty simple and consistent specifications to meet.

Heat pump ratings are based on two numbers—one for cooling and one for heating. Cooling efficiency is rated on a scale called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER. This number simply describes in a nutshell how efficiently a unit can cool the area it’s installed in. Most heat pumps these days have a SEER of at least 10, and the most efficient ones carry a SEER of around 18. To meet EnergyStar requirements, a heat pump must carry a SEER of at least 14.

The second number involved in rating the efficiency of a heat pump is the heating season performance factor, or HSPF. This number describes the heating efficiency of a heat pump by dividing its estimated heating capacity by the amount of electricity it draws. Most new heat pumps have an HSPF of at least 8, which is what is required for EnergyStar approval.

A third rating criterion for heat pumps is the energy efficiency ratio, or EER. This is like SEER, except that it is an instantaneous measurement rather than one over a whole heating season. This rating is less commonly considered by consumers, but it is part of the EnergyStar criteria, so it’s worth mentioning. EnergyStar requires heat pumps to have an EER of at least 11.

Only when a unit meets or exceeds all three of these specifications is it eligible for EnergyStar approval. Keep in mind that the requirements vary for split systems versus single package systems, and that they may change over time. Consult with a professional during the purchase process to be sure the unit you want is EnergyStar approved.

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