Los Angeles Heat Pump
Heat pump split systems are very common in the Los Angeles area because they are efficient and dont require a gas line since they use only electricity.
Like with a central air conditioner, the condensing unit sits outside. Inside is an air handler with an indoor coil. Copper refrigerant lines connect the 2 coils.
In this Los Angeles HVAC guide, we explain how a heat pump heats and cools, why getting size correct is important, factors related to cost, and tips for choosing a heat pump contractor.
How Home Heat Pump Systems Work
A heat pump gets its name from the fact that it pumps heat from one location to another, either to carry it into a house to heat it or to remove it from a house in order to cool it. In the guide to central air conditioning, we give a detailed description of how air conditioning works. To summarize, refrigerant has the ability to absorb heat rapidly as it evaporates and sheds heat quickly as it condenses.
When in air conditioning mode, the refrigerant collects heat in the indoor coil, effectively cooling the air around the coil. The blower then pushes cooled air into the house via the supply ductwork. It draws warm air into the system through the return ductwork. The hot refrigerant travels outside and enters the coil in the condensing unit where it condenses back into a liquid and sheds the heat. The heat radiates through the coil and is dispersed by the fan.
For heating your home, the same technology is used in reverse. Heat pumps have a reversing valve which changes the direction of the refrigerant flow, causing it to collect heat outside and carry it inside where it is shed in the indoor coil. The coil heats up and air is passed over it by the blower in order to heat your home. Heat pumps can draw enough heat out of outside air to heat your home until temperatures drop into the low 30s. Heat pumps in the Los Angeles area may have auxiliary electric heaters known as heat strips. They are located in the air handler and range is power from 5 kW to 20 kW. In cooler climates, a heat pump split system may be installed that uses hybrid heat. This means a gas furnace replaces the air handler and the homeowner has a choice between electric and gas heat, with gas heat being necessary when the temperature gets below 30. These are not common in our area due to our mild climate.
Installing the Right Size Heat Pump
Heat pump condensing units come is sizes from 1.5 ton / 18,000 Btu to 5.0 ton / 60,000 Btu capacity. Ton is a measurement of cooling while Btu is a measurement of heating. A unit that is too small wont heat or cool your home properly. One that is too large will waste energy and run on short cycles that may damage the compressor and wont dehumidify your home very well in summer.
A load calculation is used to determine the proper size for the heat pump split system. It takes into account our Los Angeles climate, the size of your home and other factors like the amount of insulation your home has and the number of windows, etc. When a load calculation is done correctly, your heat pump should be sized to within .5 tons of your exact requirements. Heat pumps come in whole and half-ton sizes. Insist that your HVAC contractor do a load calculation even if replacing one heat pump with another. Its very possible the original contractor didnt do a load calculation since many just estimate the proper size based on the homes square footage alone. If youve added insulation or replaced windows or roofing material, this may also affect the size you need.
Cost Factors in San Diego Heat Pumps
The cost of the system you purchase will be affected by these factors:
Size: Generally speaking, the larger the heat pump is, the more it will cost.
Efficiency: Heat pumps use electricity and each one is rated for how efficiently it turns electricity into heating or air conditioning. For heating, the rating is called the heat seasonal performance factor, or HSPF; for air conditioning the rating is SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency rating. The higher the ratings, the more expensive the units will be but the lower your energy costs will be.
Features: Some heat pumps have 2-stage compressors that are quieter and provide more balanced temperatures. These will cost more than heat pumps with single-stage compressors.
Installation Issues: Some installations are more time-consuming or require more material. These factors will cause the price to go up.
Choosing a Los Angeles Heat Pump Contractor
Choosing a contractor at random will lead to random results. These tips will help you locate a quality contractor you can depend on.
Seek recommendations from others. Youll hear good and bad stories. When you hear a good one, write down the name of the company. Ask about the quality of the work and the fairness of the pricing. Keep asking around until you have a list of 4 or 5 potential companies.
See our Contractors Page for the top-rated contractors in the area. Click on contractors to read reviews left by customers. Compare your list with ours and select several to call for estimates.
If time is a factor, you can streamline the process by requesting free estimates online from contractors on our list. It is fast and easy, and the estimates are very competitive.
If you have a brand you prefer, see the brand website for a list of Los Angeles contractors that specialize in installing that brand.