If you haven’t invested in a heat pump yet, you’re missing out on the most practical and innovative climate control solution for your Scottsdale home.
A heat pump provides year-round comfort, handling home heating and cooling duties in an all-in-one system.
There are numerous advantages to modern heat pumps, and they’re worth considering when it’s time to update your HVAC unit.
Our guide to heat pumps will explain all there is to know about how they work and how you can keep them performing year after year.
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump doesn’t generate heat but instead moves it from one place to another.
It uses refrigerant, a heat-absorbing compound, as a transport for heat between an indoor unit and an outdoor unit.
Because it is a heat transfer system, a heat pump can both heat and cool a home.
If it needs to cool a home, it will remove heat from the inside air and transport it outside, much like a central air unit.
When it needs to heat the home, it will remove heat from the outside air and transport it inside.
The dual function is one reason so many people like heat pumps — it’s easier to maintain a single system instead of relying on a separate furnace and A/C unit.
But you may be wondering, “If it needs to heat my house because it’s so cold outside, how could it possibly draw heat from the outside air?”
Let’s look at how a heat pump’s smart design allows you to pull heat even in the coldest conditions.
Heat Pump Operation: The Basics
A heat pump consists of an indoor unit, usually located in the basement or attic, and an outdoor unit just outside the house.
The outdoor unit consists of a fan, condenser coils, and a compressor, while the indoor unit holds evaporator coils and the air handler.
Between the indoor and outdoor units are one or two expansion valves.
Everything is connected in a circuit by copper lines full of refrigerants in either a gas or liquid state.
The air handler holds the blower, which sucks in household air.
The air makes contact with the evaporator coil where the heat transfer takes place.
The blower then shoots the temperature-adjusted air through the ductwork and back into the house.
The heat transfer process depends on the state of the refrigerant in the evaporator coils.
If the refrigerant is in an extremely cold liquid state, it will absorb heat from the household air, and cool air will be blown back into the house.
If the refrigerant is in an extremely hot gaseous, it will transfer heat into the household air, and warm air will be blown back into the house.
The refrigerant starts as a cold liquid in the evaporator coils, a series of tubes with a high surface area for air to pass over.
The heat from the air transfers to the refrigerant, heating it to a gas.
Now that the air has lost its heat, it can go back into the house to cool it.
Meanwhile, the refrigerant, now a warm gas, can no longer absorb heat to continue cooling incoming air.
To cool back down, the refrigerant flows through the copper tube circuit to the condenser unit outside.
First, it enters the compressor, which not only pumps the refrigerant while the heat pump is on but also applies high pressure to the refrigerant, causing the refrigerant to heat up even more.
The refrigerant is now pressurized and hot, so it needs to cool. It enters the condenser coils that, like the evaporator coils, provide a high surface area for it to exchange heat with the outside air.
A large outdoor fan blows over the coils to help them cool further.
The compressor transfers heat to the outside air and cools to a partially liquid state.
However, it’s still pressurized.
To relieve the pressure, the refrigerant passes through the thermostatic expansion valve, a metering device that depressurizes the refrigerant.
As the refrigerant loses pressure, it gets even cooler.
It’s now a cold liquid again, ready for another round of cooling in the evaporator coils.
If you think that sounded like a standard A/C, you’re right.
But what makes a heat pump special is an added mechanism — the reversal valve.
When you flick that switch, the system runs backward, removing heat from the outside rather than the inside.
The refrigerant is cool in the condenser, where it absorbs heat and is then pressurized by the compressor before flowing to the indoor evaporator coil as a hot gas.
Once it transfers heat to the inside air, it flows to the expansion valve to depressurize before returning to the condenser coils as a cool liquid.
Heat Pump Maintenance
The main drawback to heat pumps is the continued reliance on refrigerants throughout the year.
If there is a leak, the toxic refrigerant can become a serious health and environmental hazard.
Health and safety are one big reason why identifying and fixing heat pump problems is a crucial chore.
Always schedule at least one professional inspection and tune-up each year.
In Scottsdale, heat pump maintenance is an excellent springtime task, so you can get it ready for the hard cooling work that comes with the summer.
For the best performance, arrange an inspection during the spring and the fall, right before the switch to heat.
For the homeowner, heat pump maintenance is similar to spring A/C maintenance, mainly because the systems are so similar.
Here are some ways you can help your system run efficiently:
- Change filters every 30-90 days, or when dirty
- Clean outdoor coils with a hose if dirty
- Clear grass, leaves, and plants from around the condenser unit
- Reset your thermostat temperature when you switch from heating to cooling
It’s a good idea to visually inspect your unit monthly to make sure the condenser has at least 18″ of clear space around it and that there are no visible leaks.
Keep an ear out for odd noises during operation and follow up with a technician at the first sign of trouble.
Enjoy All the Benefits of Heat Pumps
Heat pumps are an expensive initial investment, but their quiet, energy-efficient, and clean operation are well worth the price.
You’ll find your home is healthier and more comfortable, and you’ll even save on your energy bills.
Are you ready for your fall heat pump maintenance service? Our experts at Scottsdale Air are ready to get your system in optimal condition for the winter season ahead.
Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.
Looking for Heat Pump experts in your area? Let us help! Contact the Surprisingly Affordable HVAC experts at Scottsdale Air Heating & Cooling to get more information here: 480-359-7141 OR you can request service online here.
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