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What Makes Inverter Heat Pumps Different?

For most of us, our interaction with our home HVAC system includes turning it off and on and changing the filter at most. When our HVAC salesperson lists off all the options, we just take whatever will be cheapest or has the highest efficiency rating. The technical speech and jargon just wash over us because it means nothing to us. What is an inverter heat pump, anyway?

Our hope, at Advantage, is to reduce the confusion around HVAC equipment and boost your knowledge and confidence. If you feel like you can confidently direct the conversation with your HVAC sales professional, then we’ve done our job. You shouldn’t feel you’re just accepting a recommendation with no information. And you definitely shouldn’t feel like the sales professional is making your decision for you.

In this post, we’ll be explaining what an Inverter Heat Pump is, what makes it special, and give you some details that you can use to direct the conversation when purchasing a new HVAC system.

What is an Inverter Heat Pump?

An inverter heat pump is a heat pump that can operate at multiple speed settings. They use a piece of technology, sometimes called an inverter drive, or inverter compressor, to operate at variable speeds, as opposed to just turning off and on.

Depending on the manufacturer and their marketing, they may also call this style of heat pump a variable speed or multispeed. The many names given to this type of HVAC equipment has led to some confusion. At Advantage, we call it a Smart System, since it can make smart decisions based on sensor inputs.

In this post, we’ll try to keep it simple and only call it an Inverter Heat Pump or a Smart System.

What Makes a Heat Pump Different from a Furnace?

HVAC Combo

Heat pumps operate differently from a furnace at its core. A furnace uses a fuel source to generate heat using a chemical reaction or electricity. A heat pump uses refrigerant to absorb heat from one side of the system and expel that heat from the other side.

A heat pump can pull heat from outside and pump it into your home in winter. They can also pull heat from inside your home and expel it outside. This means that heat pumps can also do the same function as an air conditioner.

In order to push air through the system, a heat pump will still need some sort of air handler. That could be a separate air handler unit or it can work with a furnace connected to ductwork.

What Makes an Inverter Heat Pump Different from a Fixed Heat Pump?

These two styles of heat pump operate with a different set of speed settings.

Fixed

To put it simply, a fixed speed heat pump has two settings:

  1. Off
  2. On

When the thermostat tells the heat pump to change the temperature in the room, it turns on at full speed. Then shuts off once it reaches or goes over the desired temperature.

That’s like having a car that only goes 100 miles per hour if it’s not stopped. It’s not very useful if you need to slow down through a school zone.

Inverter

A furnace being throttled

A smart system heat pump that has an inverter can go fast, slow, or at any speed in between. The inverter technology allows it to turn on at full speed and then slow down to maintain temperature or start slow and speed up if the ambient temperature changes.

This makes it like having adaptive cruise control or a sixth sense that allows you to hit the gas just right and always be going the exact speed limit.

What are the Benefits of an Inverter Heat Pump?

How an inverter heat pump provides heat means it has several benefits when compared to a furnace. The ability to adjust the speed at which it operates gives it several benefits over a fixed heat pump. We’ll start by discussing the monetary benefits that you’d see as a customer before getting into the other benefits it offers.

Monetary

A woman holding a coin jar label savings

It will be more expensive to purchase and install an inverter heat pump, but they are so efficient that it can pay for itself if you use it as a long-term solution.

Most inverter heat pumps have a Coefficient of Performance (CoP) between 3 to 5. That means for every 1kilowatt of power it uses, it will produce 3 to 5 kilowatts of heat.

A high-end furnace will have an efficiency between 95 to 98%. Making an inverter heat pump three times as efficient as a furnace.

A heat pump uses the most power to turn on. A fixed heat pump has to turn on several times throughout the day to maintain a temperature, since the ambient air will affect the air in your home once it turns off. An inverter heat pump will slow down to maintain temperature. This one longer cycle will use less energy than the fixed heat pump turning off and on.

In both cases, this means savings on your energy bill.

The exact amount you could save would depend on your climate and the frequency your heat pump turns on.

Lifespan

This benefit magnifies the value of the other benefits, but it is so important that it needs to be talked about.

Any piece of machinery suffers the most wear and tear when it first turns on. The parts move, and an electric current activates everything that needs to activate. This jolt during activation wears down parts over time. Short cycles and constant on and off activations can destroy pieces of equipment. This is especially true for HVAC equipment.

Because an inverter heat pump turns on and stays on to maintain temperature for a longer cycle, it will suffer less wear and tear than its counterparts. That means paying for fewer repairs and going through fewer materials.

Ecological

A river and trees in a mountainous view

The reasons that make an inverter heat pump save you money on energy are also the same reasons that reduce its impact on the environment. By using less energy to run and running less frequently, an inverter heat pump will reduce your carbon footprint.

By being more durable, an inverter heat pump will also require less raw materials to maintain and repair it. This also means less material having to go through the scrap and recycle process over the lifetime of the equipment.

If you are looking for a sustainable and eco-friendly option, then mention that to your HVAC sales professional.

Comfort

An inverter heat pump offers several benefits in terms of at home comfort:

  • More Consistent Temperatures
  • Quieter
  • Less Space Required
  • Available in Ductless or Ducted Systems

It is possible for traditional systems to overheat or over cool your home when they run. They only have one speed, which is full blast. That means that if the temperature only needs a slight change, but the thermostat tells the HVAC system to kick on, then you will get the full power of the HVAC system.

An inverter heat pump will adjust the speed at which it operates to give your home the exact amount of air needed. Being able to run at a slower speed also means that it can run quieter than that traditional HVAC system would at full blast.

Heat pumps are also compact units that are installed outside your home. If you have a home HVAC system that comprises just a heat pump, you will notice how much less space it needs when compared to a furnace and an air conditioner.

Takeaway

Purchasing a new HVAC system shouldn’t be intimidating or confusing. If any of these benefits or differences appeal to you, ask your HVAC sales professional about a smart system or inverter heat pump. Work with them to compare different pieces of equipment, so that way you are the one making the right decision for you.

Who are Advantage Heating and Air Conditioning?

We are your local HVAC Experts out of Salem, Oregon. We hope that this post gave you the information you need to make a confident decision when purchasing a new heat pump. If you have other questions about HVAC systems, check out our other blogs. To learn more about who we are and how we can help you, visit our website and follow us on social media - we’re here when you need us!