When most homeowners think of central heating systems, they envision furnaces. Furnaces offer an effective way to warm indoor spaces. They’ll consume electricity or burn gas to generate heat. In the Southeast, however, heat pumps have become a popular alternative. Heat pumps provide similar indoor heating capabilities, but they work in a different way than furnaces.
Heat Pumps Explained
A heat pump is a heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system that’s designed to transfer heat. It can warm your home by transferring heat from the outside to the inside. A heat pump will extract heat from the air or ground outside of your home, which it will transfer inside of your home.
There’s always some heat in the air or ground. Even if the temperature drops below freezing, a heat pump will extract this heat so that it can be used to warm your home.
Heating and Cooling
In addition to heating, heat pumps offering cooling capabilities. A heat pump can warm the inside of your home during the winter and cool your home’s interior during the summer.
A heat pump is a complete HVAC system. If you have a heat pump in your home, you won’t need an air conditioning system, nor will you need a furnace. Nearly all heat pumps offer both heating and cooling capabilities. You can switch a heat pump from heating to cooling or vise versa at the thermostat.
How Heat Pumps Work
Although there are different types, most heat pumps use a similar method of operation. They feature an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Between these two units is a refrigerant line. The refrigerant will absorb heat at either the indoor or outdoor unit, depending on whether it’s heating or cooling mode, after which it will transfer the heat to the opposite unit.
When used for heating, the refrigerant will absorb heat at the outside unit. The hot refrigerant will then travel to the indoor unit where it’s exposed to the blower. As air from the blower runs over the refrigerant-filled coil, it will produce hot air that enters your home’s ductwork.
To cool your home, a heat pump will operate in reverse. The refrigerant will absorb heat at the indoor unit, and it will release this heat at the outdoor unit. This is the same way that air conditioning systems work. Air conditioning systems use refrigerant to move heat from the inside of your home to the outside.