Our technicians often recommend heat pumps as the perfect replacement for a homeowner’s older air conditioning system. Sometimes, though, a homeowner replies in a way that’s not very surprising: “But I need an air conditioner, not a heater!” The term “heat pump” is a bit misleading in that it sounds as if it is exclusively a heater, when it is actually a heating and cooling system all in one!
Once you understand the way a heat pump works, you’ll understand where the name comes from. More importantly, you might see that this is, in fact, the perfect comfort system for your home!
A Primer on Refrigerant
First, you should understand a thing or two about refrigerant, even if you never deal with it yourself. (No untrained homeowner should. This requires EPA certification for your safety!)
You may associate refrigerant with cooling, as it’s part of the word refrigeration. But the process of refrigeration is actually the process of heat exchange. You cannot generate “cooling,” but you can remove heat from the air. Refrigerant is a chemical blend that’s able to easily release heat under high pressure as it condenses and to absorb heat when it evaporates.
How a Heat Pump Uses Refrigerant
Typically, a central air conditioner works by allowing refrigerant to condense outside of the home and evaporate in the indoor unit, over and over again in a cycle. It absorbs heat from the air in your home and releases this heat indoors, beginning the cooling process.
A heat pump looks and acts just like a central air conditioner, but it contains several extra components. The key component of a heat pump is called the reversing valve. This valve allows refrigerant to change direction, in a sense. Now, not only can refrigerant condense outdoors and evaporate inside—it can also evaporate and absorb heat from the outside to bring it in. This can work properly even in very cold climates, so it works perfectly in our warmer climate.
Why Not Use a Separate Furnace?
Allow us to answer this question with a question: Why would you want a separate furnace when our heating systems are used so sparingly? A furnace and air conditioning combination is certainly still a possibility, but we love the benefits of keeping an all-in-one system for simpler maintenance and, of course, high efficiency.
The #1 Benefit of Heat Pump Installation
Hands down, the best thing about a heat pump is how incredibly efficient it can be for both air conditioning and heating. Just look for a system with a high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), preferably a rating of 15 or higher, and you’ll have some of the most efficient air conditioning on the market.
When it comes to heating efficiency, a heat pump is nearly unbeatable. That’s because a heat pump only moves heat, rather than generating heat, and this requires a much smaller energy pull than if you used electric resistance heating (like a standard electric furnace). You may notice the energy savings every month!