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How Does a Heat Pump Both Cool and Heat?

heating-and-cooling-housesWhen it’s time to replace a central air conditioning system in a house, a homeowner will face a number of different options. One of them is to remove both the air conditioner and the heater and put in a heat pump instead. Since heaters and air conditioners are usually installed at the same time in a new home, they’ll probably be ready for a replacement around the same time. A heat pump allows a home to have its heating and cooling needs for all around the year taken care of with a single installation.

How a heat pump works

People are sometimes confused about how a heat pump works. They may think that it’s two different systems put together in a single cabinet, which is similar to the configuration of many HVAC systems, with a furnace and AC using the same blower fan.

But a heat pump uses the same set of components and the same process to work in both its heating mode and air conditioning mode. Not much changes about how a heat pump operates when the thermostat adjusts from one mode to the other.

At the most basic level, a heat pump is an air conditioner that can change the direction it moves heat. (Technically, an air conditioner is a type of heat pump, since it pumps heat from one place to another. But in the residential HVAC world, a heat pump is a system that can both heat and cool.) An air conditioner circulates refrigerant between two sets of coils. The refrigerant starts in the compressor, where it’s put under pressure to turn it into a hot gas. It then moves to an outdoor coil, where the hot refrigerant condenses, releases heat to the outside, and cools down. The refrigerant moves to the indoor evaporator unit, cooling down further as it is allowed to expand and lose pressure. The cold refrigerant moves through a coil where it evaporates, removing heat from the air and cooling it. The refrigerant then travels back to the compressor to start the process over again.

Now, to switch into a heating mode, all that needs to happen is for the refrigerant to move in the opposite direction. The refrigerant leaves the compressor, and a valve sends it to the indoor coil first. There it releases heat, and later goes to the outdoor coil where it absorbs heat. Presto! The two coils have swapped jobs and the heat pump is now providing heat for the house.

Why consider a heat pump

A heat pump offers a great convenience for a home. But it can also help save energy in heating mode compared to other types of heaters, particularly electric heaters. Because heat pumps move heat, rather than create it with electrical resistance, they consme less power. They’re also safer than using natural gas for heating.

If you would like to find out more about installation a heat pump in Fenton, MI, our team of HVAC experts is glad to help you find the best model and then have it put in place.

First Choice Heating & Cooling: If your home had a voice… it would call First Choice!

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