Understanding How Heat Pumps Work

October 20, 2020

Heat pumps have been used since the 1950s, so they are really nothing new. However, they are making a resurgence in many markets, and you may have been seeing a lot of information floating around.

But how do these units actually work? Are they good for cold weather as well as warm weather? Do they provide enough savings to make it worthwhile? Keep reading to get these important questions answered.

How Do HVAC Systems Work?

To begin, it is important to understand the basics of how heating and cooling systems work. The basic premise is moving air around and either making it warmer or making it cooler.

A standard furnace will use natural gas, propane or kerosene as a heat source. That heat warms the heat exchanger, which in turn heats the air moving through it. The warm air is then circulated throughout the house.

For cooling, a standard air conditioner transfers heat from inside your home to outside. This is accomplished with a refrigerant in the system as it circulated. The refrigerant is condensed outside the home, then cools the evaporator coils. As the refrigerant expands, it collects heat from inside the unit and transfers it outside the home. The air is pushed through the evaporator, cooling the air which is then circulated throughout the house. This is a beautifully simple concept and has worked incredibly for over a century.

So How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Now that we generally understand how heating and cooling works, what is a heat pump? The name actually suggests exactly what it does. It pumps heat both into and out of the home, depending on how it is running.

Remember the refrigerant that allows your air conditioning to cool things off? A heat pump works on that basic concept but will transfer heat both out of or into the home.

When the system is set to cool, it works on transferring heat out of the home and letting it evaporate out into the air. When the system is set to heat, it reverses the flow of the refrigerant and draws the air inside from outside.

But how does it draw warmth in when it is cold outside? It all has to do with the expansion and condensing of the refrigerant, and only mildly to do with the actual temperature of the air outside.

What Is the Difference Between Ductless and Central Heat Pumps?

When it comes to heat pumps, there are two primary different types of systems. What most people have historically thought of is the central heat pump. This works with a central air handling unit and circulates air through a traditional duct system.

One of the more popular modern forms of the heat pump is the ductless system. This places a wall unit in the primary areas of your house. From that unit, you have the refrigerant lines that run to the outdoor condensing unit. The size of your home will determine how many wall units you may need, but you do not necessarily need an individual unit for every room of your house.

With these ductless systems, many people are now opting for the mini-split systems. This allows you greater control over the temperature in each individual room so you have less energy waste.

Do I Need Another Source of Heat?

One of the primary concerns about heat pumps is whether it will provide enough heating capacity for extremely cold weather. If not, do you need a secondary heating source?

This all depends on the rating of your heat pump. Like furnaces and air conditioning units, they are rated for different outputs. As you get closer to the operating limits of your heat pump, it will begin working harder to maintain your desired temperature. This means you will end up paying more to heat your house than in more moderate temperatures. Once the temperatures reach the operating limits, now you may need a secondary heat source.

To ensure you get the right heat pump for your home, you should work with a qualified HVAC technician. They will be able to guide you as to the rating, what will work best and how to best set it up for your home.

Greater Seattleā€™s Heat Pump Experts

The experts at Expert Air Control have been servicing the greater Seattle areas for over 40 years. Our team of NATE-certified technicians evaluate your individual situation and make recommendations to help keep you safe and comfortable.

Not only does our team provide heating and cooling installation, repairs and maintenance, but we also provide electrical, gas piping and duct cleaning. Our team is the only one you will need to keep your home comfortable and family happy during extreme weather. Call Expert Air Control in Puyallup today to schedule your initial consultation.