What Is a Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

Heat Pump

Could Installing a Heat Pump Increase Your Home Efficiency?

Here in Austin, the winters aren’t as brutal as in other parts of Texas. It might make you wonder if there’s a more efficient way than a traditional furnace to heat your home. Is it possible to get both heating and cooling from one system? What is a heat pump, and how does it work? The team at Precision Heating & Air® put together some information to help you explore your best options.

What Is a Heat Pump System?

Is a heat pump an HVAC system? Yes. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems allow you to adjust the temperature in your home. Many systems include separate heating and cooling units to do this. However, heat pumps are unique in that they can perform both heating and cooling functions for your home.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Heat naturally seeks to balance itself out. For example, a hot cup of coffee will release its heat into the cooler air around it until the coffee becomes room temperature. The technology in heat pumps can reverse this process, extracting heat from the cooler air or ground and funneling it into a warm house.

Here’s how the process works:

  • Absorption. The heat pump uses low-temperature refrigerant to absorb heat from the air or ground and channels the liquid from the outdoors to indoors, or vice versa.
  • Compression. On its path, the refrigerant runs through the evaporator to transform from liquid to vapor. The compressor then presses the molecules closer, raising the temperature.
  • Transport. The coil runs between an indoor and outdoor unit. Each unit contains heat exchange coils to absorb or expel heat, depending on which direction the heat transfer is moving. The outdoor unit commonly holds the compressor and the exchange valve to switch from heating to cooling.
  • Release. The indoor unit typically contains a fan to distribute the heated or cooled air.
  • Re-cool. As the heat is released, the refrigerant vapor expands back to a low-temperature liquid to repeat the entire process.

Related Content: Should You Replace a Furnace and AC at the Same Time?

Types of Heat Pumps

The components of a heat pump HVAC system will vary depending on the unit type. The most common type—and the process we discussed above—is the air-source heat pump.

Below we’ll cover the details about different types of heat pumps:

  1. Air-source. As the most common heat pump, an air-source pump pulls the heat from the outdoor or indoor air to warm or cool the house. Some varieties, such as the air to water heat pump, can warm either a water supply or in-floor heating.
  2. Ground-source. Instead of pulling heat from cold outdoor air, this type of heat pump pulls warmth from the ground. The process involves installing buried pipes for heat exchange coils and can be more effective in colder weather than an air-source pump.
  3. Water-source. Also considered a type of ground-source heat pump, a water source heat pump transfers heat from an underground well or surface lake. There are two different types of water source heat pumps: closed-loop and open-loop. While closed-loop cycles refrigerant to transfer the heat, the open-loop is open to the well or lake and takes in new water at the start of each cycle.

Is a Heat Pump Right for Your Home?

Heat pumps can effectively reduce carbon emissions by transferring heat from one place to another instead of burning fuel to warm the cold air. It can also work as both a heating and cooling unit, potentially streamlining your HVAC setup.

It’s worth noting that because heat pumps draw heat from the outdoor air or ground, they are most effective in climates that don’t sink below freezing and can be slower to heat or cool your space than alternative options.

Austin HVAC – Precision Heating & Air

If a heat pump sounds right for your home, let our skilled Austin TX technicians give you a hand with installation. At Precision Heating & Air, we specialize in clean and efficient HVAC installations. If you need HVAC installation or maintenance services, give us a call at 512-379-6385 [17] or request service online.

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