How Do Heat Pump Systems Work? Working Principle

How Do Heat Pump Systems Work? Working Principle

We describe heat pumps’ benefits and how they function throughout the year in this article.

With the help of a heat pump, homes and businesses can stay warm inside by transferring heat from the earth or the air around them. Knowing how an air conditioner operates will teach you a lot about how a heat pump operates. This is due to how closely heat pumps and air conditioners function.

Learn more about how heat pumps function and how they can assist us in addressing climate change at home.

Read More: Why Do Heat Pumps Have Defrost Systems? How Does It Work?

How Do Heat Pump Systems Work?

The technology used by a heat pump is comparable to that of a refrigerator or air conditioner. It draws heat from a variety of sources, including the air around it, geothermal energy held beneath the surface, nearby water sources, or industrial waste heat. After that, it intensifies and distributes the heat as needed.

Because most of the heat is transferred rather than generated, heat pumps are far more efficient than conventional heating technologies such as boilers or electric heaters and can be cheaper to run. The amount of energy produced in the form of heat is typically several times greater than the amount of energy needed to power the heat pump, which is typically electricity.

For instance, a typical household heat pump has a coefficient of performance (COP) of about four. the energy output is four times greater than the electrical energy used to run it. This makes current models 3‐5 times more energy efficient than gas boilers. Hybrid configurations, which typically use gas heating systems, can be used with heat pumps.

How Do Heat Pump Systems Work? Working Principle

A compressor that circulates a refrigerant through a refrigeration cycle and a heat exchanger that absorbs heat from the source make up the heat pump itself. The heat is then transferred to a heat sink via a different heat exchanger.

In buildings, heat is distributed either through forced air systems or hydronic ones like radiators or underfloor heating. In order to provide flexibility in hydronic systems or to produce sanitary hot water, heat pumps can be connected to a tank.

How Do Heat Pumps Work as a Heating System?

Heat pumps are more energy-efficient than furnaces because they don’t use fossil fuels to produce heat. Simply put, heat pumps are devices that bring outside heat into your house or building, either from the air or from the ground.

We’ll specifically explain how an air-source heat pump works in the winter, but it’s important to note that air-source and ground-source heat pumps function in virtually the same way:

First, outside air is drawn into the outside unit by the fan. The refrigerant fluid is then warmed by the air as it passes over the heat exchanger, which is a tube with refrigerant fluid pumped through it. The liquid refrigerant evaporates due to the heat, and the compressed vapor concentrates the heat that has been absorbed. T

he vapor cools as your house warms up and is then pumped back through the initial heat exchanger to absorb more heat energy from the outside air. To keep the air at your preferred temperature, repeat this process.

How Do Heat Pumps Work as a Cooling System?

This process simply runs counterclockwise to cool your house during the warmer months. The refrigerant is pumped through a heat exchanger inside of your home first, where it absorbs heat energy and moves it outside, as opposed to transferring the heat from the outside air to the inside.

How Do Heat Pump Systems Work? Working Principle

In other words, heat pumps function as cooling systems in the same way as an air conditioner by dissipating heat into the outside air.

Components of a Heat Pump

When it comes to keeping our homes and offices warm, heat has a useful property: it naturally goes from a high temperature to a low temperature. What a heat pump does is reverse this process using some simple science that pushes air from outside, warms it up, and then feeds into your house. You can check out more information we have on Hybrid Heat Pump System.

On the outside of an air source heat pump, you will find a system of coils with refrigerant in it over which the outside air is drawn using an impeller or fan. The liquid in the refrigerant coils absorbs all the heat and starts to evaporate as a result of warming up. The temperature of this gas is then dramatically raised as it passes through a compressor. Read more about Air Source Heat Pump Installation.

When the coil reaches some inner coils inside the structure, the heat is released. In the interim, the refrigerant circulates once more outside, where it gains additional heat and the cycle repeats. The useful heat created is pumped into air ducts where it can be distributed throughout the building or used to warm the water that radiators use for their feed.

Ground source heat pumps work a little differently, getting their heat source from the ground outside or from a body of water. For the ground, these systems either use closed-loop piping or open-loop piping for the water. In contrast to an air source pump, a closed loop uses a steady supply of refrigerant to accomplish the same task, while an open loop uses water from a well or lake.

For larger-scale installations, you might like to opt for an absorption heat pump that works in the same way as an air source one but uses ammonia instead of a refrigerant. Although they are more frequently found in industrial settings, recent developments have seen them used in large commercial and residential properties.

The other major component of any heat pump is the ducting that transfers the heat from the main source to the rooms in the house. When it comes to retrofitting a home, ducting is frequently the issue because it can be invasive and expensive to install. For this reason, some domestic properties go for mini-split heat pumps that are less problematic to install.

How Do Heat Pump Systems Work? Working Principle

The development of thermodynamic panels that transfer heat from the air and solar radiation to warm your water and rooms is one of the more recent developments in heat pump technology. These, which resemble solar panels, are typically installed on a house’s side but can also be seen on its roof.

Do Heat Pumps Save You Money?

Different heat pumps have a wide range of installation and operating costs. Because ground-source pumps require you to dig down to a heat source and involve more complicated heat transfer systems, they are more expensive to install than air-source heat pumps, perhaps two to three times as expensive.

Depending on the terrain on your property, that might get a little expensive. However, a ground-source pump’s higher efficiency may result in future energy cost savings. Read More: How Much Does a Heat Pump System Cost?

A ground-source heat pump system may cost as much as $5,000 to $7,500. Because the units are typically simpler and installation is simpler, air-source heat pumps can be found for much less money, typically between $1,500 and $5,000. When labor and additional hardware are added up, the final cost may exceed $20,000 and continue to rise for larger structures.

The cost of the parts and installation can be partially covered by tax credits for high-efficiency climate control, which is available in many US regions. Read More: Is a Heat Pump System Worth It? Pros and Cons

Conclusion: Heat Pumps Are More Efficient

Heat pumps and solar panels work well together to provide your home with energy-efficient heating and cooling that is also cost-effective and emission-free. The typical efficiency range for heat pumps is between 200 and 400 percent. To put it another way, they use 1 kWh of electricity and then transform it into 2 to 4 kWh of heat energy.

That’s why, for most homeowners, heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat and cool a home. It’s almost like a bonus that they can run without fossil fuels at home or at the power plant.


What is the Major Problem of Heat Pumps?

A clogged air filter is a common cause behind a heat pump not working, as the system doesn’t receive adequate airflow due to this obstruction. You frequently experience system shutdown due to overheating, leaving you without cooling. Or perhaps the restriction prevents enough cooling from entering your house.

At What Temperature Are Heat Pumps Not Efficient?

Heat pumps do not operate as efficiently when temperatures drop to between 25 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for most systems. The ideal temperature for a heat pump is over 40 degrees. When the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees, heat pumps begin to lose efficiency and need more energy to function.

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