Heat Pumps Explained

A sizeable portion of the homes in the US rely solely on the heat pump as their method for heating their home. In fact, you may have been using a heat pump for years and not even known it. So what is a heat pump exactly?

The Heat Pump

Heat pumps are a method of heating that transfers heat from a cold area to a warm area. And since the heat pump is only transferring heat, and not generating heat, it is extremely efficient. Now, this is where most of you just got lost but let’s examine it and figure out how to get heat from a cold area to a warm area.

Whether solid, liquid, or gas, any substance that has a temperature above absolute zero, or roughly minus 460 degrees F, has heat energy that can be extracted, leaving the substance behind just a little bit colder.

The best way to imagine the heat pump in action is to think of your refrigerator. Yes, ironically the best analogy for the heat pump is the thing in your kitchen that keeps things cold. On your refrigerator are coils. The ones on the inside you don’t see but that’s the cold side, and the coil on the back you’ve seen if you’ve ever had to move a fridge, is the hot side.

Now imagine that the only thing you have to heat your home with is the refrigerator and there is a hole cut in the side of your home that perfectly fits the fridge. One side of the fridge is inside, one outside.

During the summer you’re going to have the cold side of the fridge facing in. That way the fridge is going to take heat from inside, and move it outside where it’s hot, leaving the inside cooler.

In the winter you’re going to reverse that. You’re going to have the back side of the fridge facing inside and the inside of the fridge on the outside of your home. This is now the heat pump we’re talking about. The fridge is going to pass refrigerant through the coils outside your home, pick up heat from the air, and then transfer it inside your home, where the refrigerant then cools off, and starts the cycle over again.

In essence, that is what a heat pump is and how it works. It’s like running your air conditioning in reverse. And, as mentioned previously, many homes in the US where the winters aren’t harsh, utilize a reversing valve on their AC units to turn the air conditioner into a heater, by reversing the flow of refrigerant through the system.

For more information on all things heating and air, be sure to follow the Premiere Heating & Air blog.

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