It is easy to understand why, with the name heat pump, many persons assume that these appliances are heating systems. They do provide efficient heating, but most heat pumps also provide reliable cooling. In fact, their ability to provide energy-efficient comfort throughout the year is one of their main advantages.
The most common variety is the split-system air-source heat pump. Similar to a split-system central air conditioner, these appliances have an inside air handler connected to an outside compressor unit by a conduit that contains power and refrigerant lines. Each unit contains copper coils that carry refrigerant. So how does a heat pump work to cool and heat your home?
How a Heat Pump Works
Rather than using fuel or electricity to create cool or warm air, an air-source heat pump moves heat from one location to another. It does this with a refrigerant solution that transitions easily between a gas and a liquid. Each time it makes that transition, the refrigerant either absorbs heat from the air or releases heat as the solution is pumped through the coils.
For heating, the refrigerant extracts heat energy from the ground or outside air, and transfers it into your home, where it converts back into a liquid, releasing that heat into the indoor air. A blower circulates the warm air via ductwork throughout your home.
For cooling, the heat pump operates very much like a central air conditioner. The refrigerant absorbs heat energy from the inside air and transports it outside, where it is released into the air. The removal of indoor heat results in cool air that blows throughout the house for summertime comfort. Heat pumps come with a reversing valve that controls the direction in which the refrigerant moves, whether for heating or cooling.
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