How do Heat Pumps work?
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How do Heat Pumps work?

Heat Pumps are exactly that, a two way pump that pumps cool refrigerant in or hot refrigerant out depending on whether you want to heat or cool. Heat pumps are all electric, and have substantial energy savings.

Heat pumps are both a heating and cooling system that works great in moderate climates like Los Angeles. Heat pumps are one of the most common heating and cooling systems you will find in LA. The ability of a heat pump to heat when outdoor temperatures drop below freezing is limited, so they are not often used in colder winter climates with snow. 

Heat pumps are very energy efficient. They use electricity as their sole power source (They are great to hookup with solar panels!). One drawback of the Heat pump system is that they don’t warm up a space as quickly as a traditional gas furnace does.

‘Heat Pumps systems use the same equipment (thermostat, blowers, filters, and ducting) as central air for pushing conditioned air throughout the house. The main difference between these two systems, is that with a heat pump system there is no gas furnace for heating. The condenser unit or Heat Pump can be run in two directions.  ‘Forward’ creates air conditioning and  ‘Reverse’ to create heat. Some people wonder how a heat pump can get heat from the outdoors when temperatures are very cold. This is because the refrigerant (No longer can use Freon or R22 starting in 2020 for enviornmental reasons- R410A or Puron is now used) Refrigerant has an extremely low boiling point, so even cold temperatures outside are still ‘hot’ for the refrigerant and can allow it to evaporate.

How Heat Pumps Work

A heat pump is basically a just pump. It can reverse the flow of its refrigerant with a reversal valve, depending on whether you want the pump to heat or cool. Even at very low temperatures the heat pump can ‘pump heat’ out of the air.  It uses the refrigerant cycle to transfer energy. When a liquid turns into a gas (boils) it absorbs heat (COOLS). When a gas turns into a liquid (condenses) it releases heat (WARMS). Heat pumps work by forcing the refrigerant in the system to evaporate and condense  in a specific location (indoors or outdoors)over and over again.

There are five main components of a heat pump system:

Indoor Coil – allows evaporation or condensation to take place inside and transfers heat or cooling to the air

Outdoor Coil -allows evaporation or condensation to take place inside and transfers heat or cooling to the air

Compressor– condenses the refrigerant into liquid using very high pressure and heat is released.

Expansion Valve– lowers the pressure of the liquid refrigerant which changes its boiling point and heat is absorbed.

Reversing Valve– changes the direction the coolant moves through the compressor and expansion valve.

How much does a Heat pump Cost?

If you have to buy the entire system because you are upgrading from a Wall Furnace, or have NO AC- then you will need to purchase the heat pump, air handler and ducting. The Higher the Ton rating of the heat pump the more expensive. The most common Tonnage is 3 Tons to 5 tons.  Bigger Houses may require two heat pumps instead of one for a dual zone system. In addition, prices can vary by brand and SEER ratings.

What to Expect:

 $2,000-$3,000 for the standard heat pump brands like Amana, American Standard, Coleman, Frigidaire, Goodman, York.

$3,000 -$4,000 for the high end manufacturers: Bryant, Carrier, Lennox, Trane, and Rheem.

The whole system will cost between $10,000 and $12,000 for an average 2,000 sqft home. It is slightly less expensive than Central Air because you don’t need a gas furnace which adds another $3,000 to $4,000 to the price.


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