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diagram showing how a heat pump works

Are you thinking about replacing your air conditioning and heating system? Instead of installing the traditional furnace/air conditioner combo, consider upgrading to an air-source heat pump. This way, you can enjoy cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter, all from a single set of equipment. Learn more about how heat pumps work to help you understand why they’re the perfect option for Florida homes.

Heat Pump Basics

An air-source heat pump is a forced-air HVAC system that moves heat between the inside and outside of your home using electricity. This differs from furnaces and boilers, which generate heat from a fuel source like natural gas, oil, or propane.

Because of this, many heat pumps boast an incredible coefficient of performance (COP) of around 300% in mild winter weather. In other words, they use one unit of energy to move three units of heat. Compare this to today’s best furnaces, which top out at about 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE).

Heat pumps can cool your home in the summer as well. In fact, they rely on refrigerant lines to move heat just like an air conditioner does. Since heat pumps can handle your heating and cooling needs, many homeowners forgo a furnace altogether, especially in warm climates like Florida.

Components That Make Up a Heat Pump System

Several critical parts must work together to allow a heat pump to function correctly. These include:

  • Outdoor unit: The unit sitting outside contains a condensing coil, metal fins, and a fan.
  • Indoor unit: The unit inside your utility closet (or mounted to the wall in the case of a ductless heat pump) contains an evaporator coil and air handler.
  • Refrigerant: This substance is the key to absorbing and releasing heat as it circulates through the heat pump system.
  • Compressor: Newer heat pumps use two-speed or scroll compressors in place of old piston compressors for modulated speed settings between “on” and “off.” This way, you enjoy more consistent temperatures throughout your home.
  • Expansion valve: This component depressurizes and significantly cools the refrigerant on its way to the evaporator coil.
  • Reversing valve: This is the key to operating in both heating and cooling mode. It changes the direction the refrigerant flows, allowing for year-round climate control.
  • Electric heating resistance coils: The colder it gets outside, the harder it is for a heat pump to keep up with heating demand. When the temperature drops far enough, backup heating coils provide supplementary heat. This lowers efficiency, but it keeps your home warm. Fortunately, it’s quite rare to need backup heat during Florida’s mild winter.

How Does a Heat Pump Work in Cooling Mode?

In the summer, heat pumps operate the same as a central air conditioner. They use refrigerant to absorb unwanted heat from your home and exhaust it outside. The air conditioning process occurs in four steps:

  1. Warm indoor air passes over the indoor evaporator coil. The cool, liquid refrigerant inside absorbs the heat in the air, evaporating into a high-temperature gas in the process. The air handler distributes the now-cooled air back into your home.
  2. Now in a hot, gaseous state, the refrigerant travels through the compressor. This pressurizes the gas to raise its temperature even more.
  3. The heated refrigerant passes through the outdoor condenser coil, where metal fins act as a heat sink and a large fan helps push the hot air away. The refrigerant is now a warm liquid.
  4. On its way back inside, the refrigerant passes through the expansion valve, depressurizing and lowering its temperature significantly. Now in a cool, liquid state, the refrigerant is ready to pump back through the evaporator coil and begin the cycle all over again.

How Does a Heat Pump Work in Heating Mode?

In the winter, the process described above occurs in reverse, thanks to the aptly named reversing valve. The backward refrigerant flow means the outdoor air becomes the heat source, even when it’s cold outside, and heat is transferred to your home’s interior. As a result, the outdoor coil adopts the role of the evaporator, and the indoor coil becomes the condenser. The backup electric resistance heating coils may activate to keep the home warm during cold spells.

Install a Heat Pump in Your Florida Home

Are you interested in learning more about heat pumps? Looking to install one in your home? Certified Climate Control can help. Our technicians have years of experience installing, maintaining, repairing, and replacing HVAC systems. We’re also a preferred dealer for Daikin, Bryant, and other leading brands, so you can count on us to install the best products. Customer service is very important to us as well, so we won’t deem the job complete until you’re completely satisfied. Contact us today to schedule heat pump services in Orange, Seminole, or Volusia County, FL.