November 9, 2023
Family enjoying heated and cooled home in Foothill Ranch, CA

A heat pump is a viable option to think about if you’re planning to replace your home’s heating or cooling system. It’s a fantastic heating and cooling appliance that helps you save money on your energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states that heat pumps have the capacity to generate one and a half to three times as much energy as they consume. Many are so efficient that they qualify for the ENERGY STAR designation. Incentives to assist with upfront expenditures could also come from tax credits and utility rebates, including government incentives.

Are you thinking about purchasing a heat pump? Here is a basic understanding of what a heat pump is and how it operates.

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a dual-purpose device that transfers heat from one place to another with very little energy. A heat pump takes heat from the chilly exterior air into your home during the cooler months and also removes heat from your home during the warmer months to cool it. Compared to gas-burning furnaces, they are more eco-friendly since elements like water, earth, and air power them. A heat pump can also reduce your electric expenses by about 50% when compared to systems like baseboard heaters, according to the Department of Energy.

White Mechanical, Inc. can install the right heat pump for your home and can discuss which type of heat pump is right for your home. An important starting point will be the different types of heat pumps and their various sources including gas, water, ambient air, or temperatures absorbed from the earth for heating and cooling.

Air Source Heat Pumps

The air-source heat pump is among the most often used varieties of heat pumps. Similar to the coils on the back of your refrigerator, these draw heat from the outside air and transfer it inside through refrigerant. The reversing valve is essential to enabling the air-source heat pump to cool as well. This adaptable component modifies the refrigerant flow to allow the system to run in the reverse direction. A ductless version of an air-source heat pump known as a mini-split heat pump is also available for homes without ducts.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps, commonly referred to as ground-source heat pumps, move heat between the indoors and the earth or an underground body of water. They absorb heat from the earth through underground pipes that are either filled with water or a refrigerant. These pipes function can be either closed-loop or open-loop systems. The ground temperature remains consistent throughout the year, so even though they are more expensive to install, they are usually more efficient and have lower operating costs.

Absorption Heat Pumps

Alternatively known as a gas-fired heat pump, they run off of natural gas, solar energy, propane, or water heated by geothermal energy instead of electricity.

It can be challenging to decide what heat pump is the best option for your house, given the variety of system types available. Our licensed HVAC technicians in Orange County, CA, however, can offer you specialized solutions based on your unique requirements if you want to install one. Some of the topics to discuss with an HVAC technician before deciding on which heat pump is best for your home:

  • Heat pump size
  • Heat pumps cost to run
  • Money saved on energy bill
  • Any modifications needed
  • Maintenance requirements for the heat pump

How Does It Work in Heating Mode?

Heat moves indoors from outside air during the heating cycle. There is still some thermal energy in the air, even in extremely cold weather. First, the expansion device causes the liquid refrigerant to change into a low-pressure vapor. The outside coil, which serves as the evaporator coil, receives it next. The cool, low-pressure refrigerant absorbs the heat from the outside air and evaporates because the outdoor air has more energy than the refrigerant.

Before the vapor enters the compressor, it travels via the reversing valve and into the accumulator, which gathers any liquid left. The compressor then raises the temperature and reduces the volume of the gas refrigerant by pressurizing it. At last, the hot gas moves to the condenser’s indoor coil via the reversing valve. The refrigerant condenses into a liquid when the heat from the hot gas moves to the air inside the building. The cycle is then resumed when this liquid goes back to the expansion device.

Common issues that may develop over time include refrigerant leaks, malfunctioning condensers, and faulty thermostats. This is why we strongly recommend scheduling preventative maintenance services in the fall. This proactive approach helps prevent minor problems from escalating into major issues that could necessitate a complete heat pump replacement.

How Does It Work in Cooling Mode?

When the heat pump is in cooling mode, it replaces the warm air inside your house with outside air that is colder. At the indoor coil, which serves as the evaporator, the liquid refrigerant flows through an expansion device. Similar to the heating cycle, the expansion device transforms the liquid refrigerant into a low-pressure vapor. The refrigerant absorbs heat energy on the coils when air from within the house blows across them. After absorbing heat from the interior air, the liquid refrigerant boils into a low-temperature vapor.

This vapor travels to the compressor via the accumulator, which gathers any leftover liquid. After that, the compressor compresses the vapor, which lowers its volume and raises its temperature. The hot gas then travels to the external coil, which serves as the condenser, via the reversing valve. A fan drives air from the outside through the condenser coil. Heat moves from the heated compressed gas refrigerant in the coil to the outside air because the air outside the house is colder than the inside air. The refrigerant cools throughout this process and condenses back into a liquid state. The cycle resumes when this liquid goes back to the expansion device.

Common issues that may develop over time include refrigerant leaks, malfunctioning condensers, and faulty fan motors. This is why we strongly recommend scheduling preventative maintenance services in the spring. White Mechanical, Inc. has repair solutions that can restore your heat pump and have it produce cool air in no time.

Concluding Insights on Heat Pump Functionality

While heat pumps may have an upfront cost, they offer significant long-term energy savings and performance benefits. If you’re considering installation, contact White Mechanical, Inc. in Orange County. Our team members hold certifications from North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the largest non-profit organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians in the nation. Our licensed HVAC technicians can assist with heating, cooling, and indoor air quality needs, including repairs, installations, and maintenance. We offer services like air duct cleaning, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers to enhance your home’s air quality. Call White Mechanical, Inc. today to schedule quality HVAC services and improve your Orange County home’s indoor comfort and efficiency.

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