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Carrier's Energy-Efficient Heat Pumps Can Save Money

When Willis Carrier invented air conditioning in 1902 he could not have foreseen how that his novel invention would be essential to comfortable living in the 21st century. In the century since he founded the company, Carrier has continued to be an innovator in designing mechanical systems for home comfort. Heat pumps are a good example of the Carrier Company's innovative engineering.

The invention of heat pumps actually predated air conditioners by nearly 50 years, but companies like Carrier have increased the efficiency and therefore the popularity of heat pumps in the last three decades. Although heat pumps serve an important function in terms of home heating and cooling, especially in times like the current when energy efficiency is critical, many people have no idea what they are and how they work.

A heat pump is a mechanical device that moves heat from one location to another. Heat pumps draw heat from the air, from the ground, or from water, and either cool it (in warm weather) or heat it (in cold weather). Because they move energy rather than create energy they are an energy-efficient replacement for traditional furnaces and air conditioners, particularly in moderate climates. For example, by replacing an electric furnace with an electric heat pump, a homeowner can save about 35 percent on the cost of electricity for heating. Heat pumps also require less energy for cooling because they remove moisture from the air more efficiently than do standard air conditioners.

Geothermal heat pumps transfer heat between the house and either the ground or a nearby source of water. Because of relatively constant ground and water temperatures, geothermal heat pumps are particularly energy efficient. They are, however, more costly to install, and costs vary according to the lot size and soil type. Geothermal heat pumps are more successful than air-source heat pumps in extremely hot or cold climates.

The absorption heat pump is a new option for heating systems for large homes. Instead of being driven by electricity, natural gas, propane, or solar-heated or geothermal-heated water fuels the system. Absorption heat pumps are often called gas-fired heat pumps because gas is the most common heat source. A big advantage of absorption heat pumps is that they can use a variety of fuels, making them particularly valuable for homes that do not have electric power.

Another way to maximize efficiency with a heat pump is with a hybrid system like Carrier's dual fuel system. The system combines a gas furnace with an electric heat pump and switches back and forth between the two. An innovation in air-source heat pumps called reverse cycle chillers allows homeowners to choose from a variety of distribution systems for heating and cooling, resulting in greater comfort and lower energy costs.

When choosing a heat pump, homeowners should look for the EnergyGuide Label, which gives the system's heating and cooling efficiency ratings. These ratings make it easier to compare the efficiency of various systems. Companies such as Carrier and Lennox offer different sizes and models of heat pumps that operate at different efficiencies.

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