Answers to Some Commonly Asked Questions
Section 8 - Heating and Cooling with a Heat Pump
- I've heard that heat pumps are very noisy. Is it possible to buy one that won't disturb my neighbours or me?
- How can I find a good contractor to purchase a heat pump from?
- I have heard that there are problems with compressors if they are outside during the winter in Canada. Will this affect the performance and durability of a heat pump?
- Do municipal by-laws affect the use of heat pumps?
I've heard that heat pumps are very noisy. Is it possible to buy one that won't disturb my neighbours or me?
Yes. While there are no industry standards governing allowable noise levels, manufacturers usually publish this information in their product literature. The ratings are given in bels. The bel ratings increase as the heat pumps get louder. Remember, too, that noise generated by this type of equipment must not exceed the levels set out in municipal by-laws. Proper attention to installation will also reduce noise levels for both owner and neighbour.
How can I find a good contractor to purchase a heat pump from?
Selecting a reputable contractor is a key consideration in any decision to buy or modify a heating system. The following tips should help you to choose a firm:
- Ensure that the contractor is qualified to install and maintain the equipment.
- The contractor should calculate the heating and the cooling loads for the house. He or she should be able to explain this to you.
- The contractor should ensure that the ductwork is designed to provide adequate airflow and distribution to all areas of the house. If the system is an add-on, the contractor should examine the existing ductwork to see if it is adequate, since a heat pump system may require greater airflow than the ductwork was designed to handle.
- If the unit is an add-on, the contractor should ensure that the existing furnace, control system and chimney are in good working order.
- The contractor should ensure that the electrical system can accommodate the increased load brought on by the heat pump.
- The contractor should be willing to provide you with information on the unit, its operation and warranties, and to offer a service contract on the installation. The contractor should be prepared to guarantee the installation work.
In addition, follow the usual process for selecting a contractor: ask friends and relatives for referrals; get firm (written) quotes from at least two firms; check with previous clients to see if they were satisfied with the equipment, installation and service provided; and follow up with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there are any outstanding claims against the contractor. If you know which brand you would like to have installed, the manufacturer may recommend a contractor in your area.
I have heard that there are problems with compressors if they are outside during the winter in Canada. Will this affect the performance and durability of a heat pump?
Studies have shown that the service life of air-source heat pumps is shorter in northern climates than in southern climates. Climate affects the total hours of operation. In Canada, the main mode of operation is the heating cycle. The heating cycle imposes more difficult conditions on the heat pump. However, these same studies indicate that the skill of the installer and the maintenance program followed by the homeowner may have as much or more impact on the service life of the unit.
Other studies have shown that a heat pump will likely require no more than one compressor change over the course of its useful life.
Do municipal by-laws affect the use of heat pumps?
Some municipalities have enacted by-laws that require heat pumps to have specific minimum clearances to lot lines and specify that they must maintain noise levels below 45 decibels (normal talking level). Check with your local municipal office to find out if such by-laws are in effect, or if there are any additional requirements.
Your local electrical utility may offer technical advice and publications on heat pumps.
Also, you can contact the following organization for information on earth-energy systems:
Earth Energy Society of Canada
124 O'Connor Street, Suite 504
Ottawa ON K1P 5M9
Tel.: (613) 371-3372
Fax: (613) 822-4987
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