hen you hear the words “heat pump,” your first thought might not be “the perfect commercial heating solution.” While it’s not perfect in every application, heat pumps are not solely the domain of the residential HVAC system. These reverse air conditioners can, in fact, provide a viable source of heat for many types of businesses while working to help you save on energy costs. With the substantial amount of money even small businesses must expend each year on heating and cooling bills, the potential benefits of a commercial heat pump are worth your time and consideration.
Heat pump installations can come in many forms, from combination units with air conditioners and other furnace types, to more complicated setups that can effectively create multiple warming zones within a building. Yet because installations such as gas-fired furnaces are so widespread, many business owners might not consider that there is another option. However, when lowering annual fuel costs is a concern of yours, or if you’re looking for a way to potentially make your building eco-friendlier, heat pumps can prove immensely useful. Is it the best solution? Start by considering how they work compared to the furnaces you know.
How a commercial heat pump works in your building
With a gas or oil-fired furnace, actual fuel is burned in a combustion chamber, using the flames to heat air circulated through ductwork. The advantages to these units are their typically high efficiency and low fuel costs, but they can come with their fair share of downsides, too. A heat pump doesn’t use fuel, but electricity to drive compressors and evaporators that allow refrigerant to suck heat out of the air outside. This heat is then brought indoors, where air passes over the warm elements. When the heat pump reaches a point at which it can’t efficiently extract heat from the air, it can often switch to traditional electric heat.
When do heat pumps become less effective? It varies from region to region along with the actual building itself, but even a commercial heat pump will begin to lose heating effectiveness between 30 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The balance point for commercial spaces can vary but typically falls close to these numbers. Heat pumps also take longer to warm an area than a furnace, which outputs maximum heat in minimum time. Yet despite these drawbacks, there are still plenty of good reasons to consider this option.
Which buildings are the best candidates for a commercial heat pump?
Not every property is well-suited to a heat pump. Very large office buildings, or spaces that have a lot of outward-facing areas and air exfiltration, can struggle to take advantage of a heat pump’s efficiency. Multiple pumps placed at various locations around the structure can help but may not prove cost-effective. Instead, smaller buildings and those with larger stores of internal heat (due to lighting, etc.) can take full advantage of using only a heat pump. If you don’t anticipate experiencing particularly cold temperatures, the slower response of a heat pump can be a welcome trade-off when you experience reduced maintenance costs and more effective heating.
However, you do not have to opt for a standalone unit. In fact, many heat pumps today are paired with a gas furnace as a backup. Most of the time, you can take advantage of the benefits the pump offers. When the temperatures plunge, though, and you want to avoid the costly operation of purely electric heaters, switching to a gas or oil furnace as a backup can be very useful. More common than they once were, these combination units deliver the best of both worlds.
In some locations, heat pumps that don’t use air as their heat exchange medium can offer even more effective winter heating. Typically relying on using a source of geothermal heat underground, these units are a different story altogether. However, because they require special environmental conditions, most existing commercial buildings cannot tap into them. For owner/operators of such structures, the choice remains: a traditional furnace, or a heat pump? It’s clear there’s no singular answer to fit every scenario.
Discovering the most cost-effective option for commercial heating
In summary, if the ambient temperature outside is rarely low enough to cause efficiency issues or if your building requires heating in generally small measures, a commercial heat pump can be the best, most energy-efficient solution for your business. In other cases, it can be an essential component of an overall system that allows you to choose how to heat the space effectively as circumstances dictate. What if you aren’t sure which system would be best for your business? In that case, reach out to a business with experience in helping companies like yours make the right choices. The system you install today could serve you faithfully for years to come — take the time to find out what form that system should take.
Valley Comfort conducts commercial heating services in the following communities: Santa Rosa, Napa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, St Helena, Calistoga and Windsor.