Looking to save money on your heating and cooling bills? Before you settle on a solution, learn how air source heat pumps work. These common heat pumps are an inexpensive and efficient option for homes and buildings in milder climates, where winters are not too extreme. Plus, recent technological improvements have made them a viable option in some colder climates as well.
Rather than burning fuel as a source of heat, air source heat pumps work by transferring heat from one location to another. There is no need to light a fire, and no chimney or venting is required. Air source heat pumps are very efficient in heating and cooling indoor spaces. They can also heat household water, and as an added bonus, they typically offer energy cost savings.
How Air Source Heat Pumps Work
If you’re wondering how air source heat pumps work, focus on basic refrigeration principles. Even in cold weather, outdoor air contains heat. An air source heat pump takes in outdoor air, extracts the heat from it, and uses that heat to warm your home. Standard air source heat pumps can extract heat from outdoor temperatures down to 5°. In warmer weather, the process reverses, and the pump keeps your home cool by extracting warm air indoors and transferring it outdoors.
Did you know that almost every home has a form of “heat pump”? It’s your domestic refrigerator! It removes heat from one source and relocates it to another. In wintertime, it even provides free heat in the area surrounding the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this also means that during the summer, the fridge becomes a heat load that your air conditioner must manage.
Components of an Air Source Heat Pump System
Most air source heat pump systems contain two units: an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. Refrigerant passes through the system in a loop. The loop includes four main components: an evaporator, a compressor, a condenser (or heat exchanger), and an expansion valve. As the refrigerant travels through these components, it transforms from a liquid to a gas, absorbing and transferring heat as it moves through the system.
Outdoor air comes in through the system’s evaporator, where its heat is absorbed by the refrigerant. Because the refrigerant is much cooler than the outdoor air, when the energy from the air is absorbed, the refrigerant transforms from a liquid to a gas. That gas then passes through the compressor, which reduces the volume of the refrigerant and significantly increases its temperature.
The warm gas is then drawn into the condenser (or heat exchanger). At this stage, the heat from the refrigerant gas is extracted and used to heat the home.
Once its heat has been extracted, the refrigerant transforms back to a high-pressure liquid and travels through the expansion valve, where the pressure is released. At this point, the refrigerant is once again able to absorb heat and it heads back to the evaporator to go through the cycle again.
In warmer weather, a valve near the compressor allows the cycle to reverse itself, drawing warm air out of your home to keep it cool.
Advantages of Air Source Heat Pumps
Air source heat pumps do require electricity to function, but they generate more energy than they consume. In fact, the efficiency of an electric heat pump is typically over a 3:1 ratio. That is, for every kilowatt of electricity the system uses, it produces three kilowatts.
Air source heat pumps are also less expensive to install than ground source heat pumps, and when properly installed, they can reduce your home’s energy costs by up to 40%. Homes and buildings that are well insulated benefit most from the use of an air source heat pump.
In addition to the energy cost savings, air source heat pumps offer a lower carbon footprint, so they are more environmentally friendly than combustible heating systems. They can also be operated using solar or wind power instead of electricity, and they provide both heating and cooling functions from a single system. Finally, because these systems incorporate true variable speed technology, they reduce the constantly fluctuating space temperatures associated with single-stage systems.
If you’re interested in purchasing a new system or you’re still wondering how air source heat pumps work, contact Long Refrigeration if you live in or near Springfield, Missouri. We offer a wide range of heating and cooling services, including air source heat pumps, geothermal systems, and radiant floor heating. To learn more, contact us today.