How does a heat pump work – a functional device for heating and cooling
How does a heat pump work? What is a heat pump? What are the advantages and disadvantages compared to air conditioners? Are these pumps suitable for every season? There are many questions and we shall give you detailed and useful information as these pumps have many benefits to offer. Many people get confused by the name and think that heat pumps are used for heating and would not expect that a such a pump can be used for cooling as well. Quite naturally, when we need to cool a home or lower the temperature in the house, we think of an air conditioner as they have been on the market for decades.
What is a heat pump? A simple explanation would be to say that this is a facility that moves heat from one place to another. Heat pumps are modern and high-tech devices for heating and cooling. The pump collects heat from the street or from the earth and sends (pumps) it to the house and can be used in both residential and industrial buildings.
Here we come to the main question – How does a heat pump work? As we said, the idea of the pumps is to transfer warm air from outdoors to the indoor when the weather is cold and vice versa – to pull the heat from indoors and transfer it outdoors in hot weather. Split air conditioners operate on the same principle.
Heat pumps, just like refrigerators and air conditioners, contain a refrigerant (gas) which is constantly changing being under high pressure and low pressure. In cold weather the refrigerant is pushed through an expansion valve, and the temperature of the refrigerant drops significantly which makes the cold air outdoors warmer. Since heat moves from warmer objects to cooler objects, the heat from the air gets into the refrigerant and is transferred indoors.
How does a heat pump work in summer? In hot weather a house generates and accumulates warmth from sunlight which comes through the windows, from home appliances, from the roof and walls and the pump provides an effective cooling sending the heat from the inside to the outside. The difference between a pump and an air conditioner is that heat pumps have a reversing valve, which standard air conditioners do not have and this is what allows the dual work mode – moving warm air from inside the house to the outdoors (cooling mode) and moving warmth from outside the house to the indoors (heating mode).
How does a heat pump work and what are the pros and cons?
Now that you have a basic idea how does a heat pump work it is time to look at the advantages it has to offer. On the first place, these pumps are very efficient and they can cut down your energy costs with 30 to 40 percent, especially when it comes to heating your home during the winter period. A heat pump does not convert electricity into heat but absorbs the heat from the air or the ground and transfers it into the home. This makes them cheaper to run than appliances which use oil and gas.
The pumps are environmentally friendly as they use renewable resources – air and soil – to transfer heat inside or outside a house. The unit does not burn fuel, so does there are no harmful carbon emissions.
Safety is another advantage. They are safer than systems that are based on combustion and are practically explosion and fire safe as there is no fuel or open fire, dangerous gases, etc. In addition none of their parts is heated to an extent that could cause ignition of combustible materials.
Heat pumps require less maintenance than alternative systems and have a very long lifespan which makes them very reliable. They will not need more than an annual inspection, just as any typical air conditioning system, to check the condition of the condenser coils and eventually lubricating the fans. Of course, you need to make sure that the outside unit of your system has a free airflow, unobstructed by debris, fallen leaves, snow or ice.
Convenience is another great benefit. You can control the temperature of your home and increase/decrease it at will by simply pushing a button. In addition, you will not have to deal with smoke, clean ashes or any other waste material.
On the downside of heat pumps there are several issues. The one that weighs the most on the con side is the high initial cost. Prices vary depending on the size of the unit but you will need to foresee installation cost as well.
The installation of a heat pump is not a DIY project. It should be done by a competent, qualified and trained technician. Before buying one it is good to know the heating and cooling requirements for your house. In case you are not sure, it is best to consult with an expert. Keep in mind that the installation requires drilling holes outside and inside your house.
As far as efficiency is concerned, some heat pumps may experience troubles in winter in case temperatures fall below freezing and will not reach their full capacity. This is due to the fact that the system is based on gathering heat from the outside before transferring it to the inside and in cold weather the system requires more time and energy.