Heat pumps work by extracting the warmth from cool or cold outdoor air. An air conditioner uses the same process, only backwards. It pulls the warm air from your house, and expels it outside. Heat pumps are extremely effective when outdoor temperature ranges between 40° to 60°. However, they still work well when outside temperatures reach the "balance point" at approximately 36°F.

The Major Working Components

The main components of a heat pump include the indoor coil, the refrigerant, a compressor and the outdoor coil. Regardless of whether it is hot or cold outside, there is always heat that can be extracted from the air. The outdoor coil is used to remove the heat, which is absorbed into the refrigerant within the coil. Once the heat is captured, the heated refrigerant is compressed and sent to the indoor coil in the home. When the refrigerant is released to the indoor coil, it transfers its warmth of the indoor air. The warm air is then blown through the home vents and spreads out in every room of the house.

Heat Pumps in Air-Conditioners

When used in a HVAC (heating and air conditioning) application, a heat pump is described as a vapor-compression refrigeration system. It is manufactured with a reversing valve and heat exchangers that allow a reversal in the direction of heat flow. By reversing the direction of the refrigerant, it can deliver heated air to the home in the cold months, and cool air on hot days.

Heating Water

Heat pumps can also be used to heat water. They are an ideal solution for domestic water heaters and preheating water in swimming pools. The pumps are rated using a scale of coefficient of performance (COP), which is based on a ratio of its heat movement input.

Efficiency of Pump-Produced Heat

Companies manufacture heat pumps that operate at various levels of efficiency. The higher percentage of heat produced by a single unit of electricity, the higher its efficiency rating. Typically, measurements of performance are rated using the standard Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The SEER rating numbers of older heat pumps will be significantly lower than new ones. An efficient heat pump from decades ago was traditionally rated at its peak with SEER number of six. By law, the minimum SEER allowed is 10. The most efficient heat pump manufactured today is SEER 16.

Heat pumps are effective and efficient solution for heating the interior of the home. It is environmentally friendly, minimizing its carbon footprint effect of the atmosphere.