Understanding the workings of a heat pump is similar to understanding your refrigerator. In fact, your refrigerator is a one-way heat pump. Instead of pumping cooling into your refrigerator, the equipment is actually pumping the heat out. The key components of heat pumps operate in a similar fashion.
Circulation of a refrigerant inside coils moves heat out of or into your home. The refrigerant constantly changes from a liquid to a gas as it circulates. The heat pump components dictate how the refrigerant moves:
- Your Compressor – The compressor circulates the refrigerant between an inside coil and an outside coil. It also is responsible for compressing the refrigerant.
- Evaporator Coil – Inside the evaporator coil, in summer, the refrigerant becomes a gas or, evaporates into a vapor. In this form, it absorbs heat from inside your home. As it makes its way through the coil, it is pushed to the outdoor coil.
- Condenser Coil – Outside, the refrigerant releases the heat that it has absorbed from inside your home and condenses back into a liquid. Metal fins on the outdoor coil create a larger surface area to enable the heat to release quickly and disperse into the outdoor air.
In winter, this process is reversed. Heat is collected from the outside air, transferred to the inside coil and released. In summer your coils move heat outside to be released, leaving cool air inside. Depending on the season, heat is pumped from one location to the other and released.
A reversing valve on the equipment determines the direction the refrigerant moves to release the heat it has absorbed.
Keeping these three components clean and operating properly enables your equipment to operate at peak performance. If you have questions about your heat pump’s operation, contact us at Ernst Heating & Cooling. We’ll be happy to answer your questions or schedule a maintenance check of your system. We’re always happy to answer your calls on any home comfort concerns.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about heat pumps and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.