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Heat Pumps: Bringing Sexy Back to HVAC

I know! First and foremost on everyone's mind these days is the heat pump. We just can't stop thinking about them.

For those of you who know nothing about heat pumps, read on for a little insight in to how these beautiful beasts work and why they are a smart choice for homeowners.

Though the name may insinuate warmth, heat, cozy, don't let that fool you. A heat pump helps in both heating AND cooling your home or office. Heat pumps pull heat out of the air, or ground if you have geothermal heat, to be used to heat a home. In reverse it pulls heat from the home to cool the home. Huh? Yep, I was as confused as you. But read on for a very brief science lesson.

There are a few types of heat pumps (air-source, ground-source, absorption) but they all work the same way - they transfer heat. So, rather than burning fuel to create heat, it takes the already present heat, whether from outside or inside, and transfers it to the appropriate place.

On a sweltering summer day, a heat pump takes indoor heat and moves it outdoor. And on those cold winter days, the cycle reverses and the heat pump finds heat outdoors that can be "pumped" inside.

How a Heat Pump Works

So here's where it gets sciency.

When in the heating mode, the liquid refrigerant, the magic sauce, is pumped into evaporator coils surrounded by fans to transfer the heat. An exterior fan pulls air through the coils, warming the refrigerant into a vapor. The heat is then absorbed. This vapor is pumped through a compressor, which, if you remember from science class, the heat intensifies when under pressure. This heated refrigerant vapor moves indoors to heating coils located in the HVAC's air handler. As the refrigerant cools it returns to its liquid form and repeats the process.

To cool the air, the process is reversed. The heat pump moves warm indoor air outside. The indoor coils act as a the evaporator (cooling coil). The refrigerant picks up the indoor heat as it vaporizes. The indoor heat is dumped outside and the refrigerant expands and cools before returning to the interior coil.

heat pump, air circulation,

Heat pumps are very energy efficient and can help consumers save on utilities in the long run. However, if you live in an area where the temperature falls below freezing on a regular basis, think Northern US and Canada, a heat pump may be less effective. The unit would have to work harder to bring in heat from the outside on freezing days than on milder days.


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