Heat pumps are frequently described as reverse air conditioners. This is an apt but oversimplified description of how heat pumps work. In today’s post, local HVAC specialists from Broom Heating & Air Conditioning share a look at their key components and how they work.
The Basic Anatomy of a Heat Pump
Heat pumps have three major components: the compressor, air handler and thermostat. All of these work together to provide warm air to your home.
Compressor — The compressor is the unit installed outdoors. The most critical stages of the refrigeration cycle happen within this component. When used as a heat pump, it ultimately heats the coils. Air is then blown over them, resulting in warm air.
Air Handler — This is the part of the system that handles air circulation in the house. It includes air blowers, evaporators and heat exchangers, as well as the vents and air filters. In addition to circulating warm air in the house, it also helps maintain good indoor air quality. Components such as air ducts are often kept as they are during an HVAC replacement.
Thermostat — The thermostat is the interface that allows for easy control of the heat pump. While its main purpose is to set the temperature, modern thermostats also let you control air circulation and perform tasks such as monitoring indoor air quality in each room.
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
Heat pumps utilize the same compression/decompression cycle as air conditioners. A standard cooling cycle generates cold air by “pumping” warm air from the room to coils where cool refrigerant passes through. Since heat naturally moves to cooler surfaces, it’s taken away from the room as the refrigerant undergoes the next step in the process, where it’s put under heavy pressure and starts building up heat as it turns into a gaseous state. As the pressure is released, the refrigerant rapidly cools down as it returns to its liquid state. The heat is released outdoors through cooling coils and vented at the outdoor unit using fans.
Heat pumps utilize the same cycle, but in reverse. Heat from the outdoors—which can be sourced from the air, the ground or nearby bodies of water depending on the type of heat pump—is pumped into the house. Heat from decompressed refrigerant is passed through the air handler and circulated in the house. Heat pumps that can be switched to air conditioners are becoming more common, and are a cost-effective solution to having separate heating and cooling systems at home.
Broom Heating & Air Conditioning is your leading provider of HVAC installation and electrical repair services. Give us a call at (803) 754-9409. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.