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How a Heat Pump Gets Heat From Outside

cold-house-warm-houseWe recommend heat pump installations to many of our customers because they are an excellent option for comfort in the Tampa Bay climate. For those who aren’t familiar with this HVAC system, they are refrigerant-based cooling and heating systems that operate similar to air conditioners. The difference is that a heat pump can work in both directions when it comes to moving heat. An AC moves heat outside of the house to cool the air. A heat pump can also do that, but with only a basic adjustment, it can move heat from outside the house and release it indoors, warming the space.

This is usually where people who don’t know about heat pumps raise their hand with a question: “Since I’ll only use the heat pump in heating mode when it’s cold outside, how is the heat pump getting any heat from the outside air?”

It does seem strange, but the explanation is a simple one.

There Is Always Heat Outside!

Even on the coldest days—the sort we don’t experience in Florida—there is still heat energy available in the air. Think of it this way: “cold” isn’t a form of energy, but the absence of heat energy. The less heat energy in the air, the colder the air.

So is there a point where there is no heat energy in the air? Yes, it’s known as ­absolute zero. It also doesn’t exist, it’s only a theoretical temperature. In order to lower the temperature of the air, its heat must be transferred to an area of lower temperature. Since you can’t have any temperature lower than absolute zero, there’s no way to remove the heat to drop air to absolute zero.

Besides, if the temperature were ever literally absolute zero, it would be –459.67°F and you wouldn’t be worrying about running a heat pump.

How the Heat Pump Extracts the Outdoor Heat

Now that we’ve established that there’s always heat outside, no matter how chilly the weather, let’s see how the heat pump brings it indoors.

We already have part of the explanation when we were talking about absolute zero. Heat must be transferred to an area with a lower temperature. For a heat pump to draw heat from the outside air, all it has to do is create an area of lower temperature. This is the refrigerant moving through the outdoor coil. In heating mode, the refrigerant moving through this coil is around 30°F. As the refrigerant is exposed to the outdoor air, which is warmer even if it’s in the 40s, the refrigerant evaporates and draws heat into it. The warmer refrigerant than moves into the compressor, where it’s pressure is raised to further heat it. This hot refrigerant then passes through the indoor coil. It condenses, releasing heat into the house.

A heat pump can experience difficulties in extremely cold temperatures and lose efficiency. However, we don’t experience those extreme lows in Florida, so a heat pump can handle the weather all around the year in a house. (As long as you have professionals size and install it correctly.) We would love to help you see if a heat pump in Tampa, FL is your home’s top comfort option.

Experience the Balanced Air Difference! Call on the experts at Balanced Air, Inc. to find out more about heat pumps.

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