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Is a Heat Pump Less Powerful at Cooling Than an AC?

sun-and-snowflake-badgeHeat pumps are a popular option for home comfort in Tampa Bay because they provide air conditioning and heating in one unit. A big benefit of a heat pump in this climate is the energy efficiency of heating mode, which drains less power than a standard electric furnace. A heat pump spends most of the year in cooling mode, but on the few days when it needs to turn to heating mode, it won’t place an enormous demand for electrical power.

Unfortunately, the dual-function of heat pumps—heating and cooling—often leads to a misunderstanding about how they work. People sometimes believe that a heat pump will not be as powerful a cooling system as a stand-alone air conditioner, which can dedicate all its power to cooling. Thankfully, this isn’t true.

Heat Pumps Don’t Sacrifice Cooling Power to Also Be Heaters

A heat pump doesn’t split up power between its heating and cooling functions. It stays in one mode at a time and puts all its electrical power to use. In fact, there’s almost no difference in how a heat pump works in heating mode and cooling mode.

The easiest way to explain this is that a heat pump is an air conditioner. It operates the same way: a compressor puts chemical refrigerant under pressure, raising its temperature and causing it to circulate through the system. The refrigerant passes through outdoor coils, where it condenses when it comes into contact with the cooler outdoor air and releases heat. This cools down the refrigerant, which then passes through an expansion valve that lowers its pressure and causes its temperature to drop further. The cold refrigerant than passes through indoor coils, where it evaporates as it comes into contact with the warmer indoor air and removes heat from the air, creating the cool area that is then blown through the house.

So a heat pump in cooling mode is just like any AC of the same size, and you can expect to receive the same amount of cooling load from it.

What Happens in Heating Mode?

When you turn the heat pump from cooling mode to heating mode, there’s little change in how the system operates. The compressor still puts refrigerant under pressure, and it still circulates between the two sets of coils to remove heat from one set of coils and release it from the other. The difference is a component called the reversing valve, which the refrigerant enters after it leaves the compressor. In heating mode, this valve sends the refrigerant a different direction—instead of going to the outdoor coils first, it goes to the indoor coils. The refrigerant releases heat to the indoors, then travels to the outdoor coil where it absorbs heat. All that’s happened is the two coils have swapped jobs.

We can answer all your questions about air conditioning in Wesley Chapel, FL and help you find a heat pump that will provide the level of cooling and heating to match your previous systems. We’ve served the Tampa Bay Area since 1998 and are experienced with finding the best ways to deliver energy-efficient comfort to local homes.

Call today and experience the Balanced Air, Inc. difference! We proudly serve Pasco, Pinellas, Hernando, and Hillsborough counties.

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