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How Does a Heat Pump Work?
06 Feb
By: Climate Control
Heat pump

Many systems that have both heating and air conditioning modes use a heat pump to work. Despite its name, a heat pump can both warm and cool a building. To understand how a heat pump works, it's helpful to know the laws and history of thermodynamics. But rather than turn this into a science textbook, we’ll try to keep things much simpler.

How Air Conditioning and Heating Systems Use a Heat Pump

A heat pump is a device that can move heat from one area and transfer it somewhere else. When a heat pump works to cool a building, it takes the heat from inside the building and moves it outside the building. When the heat pump works to heat a building, it takes outside heat and transfers it inside.

A refrigerator or freezer is a type of heat pump that works in only one way: to cool. The inside of a refrigerator stays very cold, but have you noticed that the top, bottom or back of a refrigerator is very warm? That's because the heat from inside the fridge moves to the outside of it. An air conditioner is another example of a heat pump that only works to cool.

How Heat Pumps Operate

So how does a heat pump transfer heat from one place to another? If you’ve ever used canned air to clean your computer keyboard or noticed that your car’s tires sometimes get warm when putting air in them, you already know the basics of how heat pumps work.

When you put a gas, such as air, into an enclosed area and put it under pressure, it produces heat. This is why your tires heat up when you put air into them. But when you take a liquid and evaporate it quickly, such as what happens to the liquid inside a bottle of canned air, it leads to a rapid temperature drop. This is why the canned air container gets cold when you use it.

In heating mode, a heat pump works by taking a substance called refrigerant and compressing it. When the compression creates heat, the pump transfers that heat to the inside of your building. In cooling mode, a heat pump works by letting the refrigerant evaporate, which produces cold air. This air is then used to cool your building.

The above description is brushing the surface of the science, but it should give you a good idea of how a heat pump works. If you have more questions about using a heat pump or how to make the most of your heating and air conditioning, feel free to contact our friendly team of experts at Climate Control, Inc. 

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