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How Air Source Heat Pumps Work & Their Benefits

by Daniel Estevao on October 4, 2015

Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to move heat from a cool space into a warm one, making the cool space cooler and the warm space … you guessed it, warmer!

how air source heat pumps work

How Air Source Heat Pumps Work

During the heating season, heat pumps transfer heat from the cold outdoors into your home (yes, there is still heat to be harnessed from low temperatures); during the cooling season, heat pumps transfer heat from inside to outside. In fact, heat pumps can gather heat from temperatures as low as -15° C (Energy Saving Trust).

Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can provide up to 4 times the amount of energy they consume.

In order to understand how most heat pumps work (geothermal, air-to-water, and other heat pumps work roughly the same way), let’s take a look at how a air-source heat pump works:

Summer Cooling Mode 

The following diagram demonstrates the flow of your refrigerant from your outdoor unit to the indoor section and then back out again. A heat pump depends upon refrigerant to absorb and release heat.

How a heatpump works

A quick schematic of the inside of a heat pump.

The indoor coil (evaporator coil) enables the refrigerant to absorb heat from the indoors as it vaporizes. As the refrigerant reduces pressure, it cools and evaporates, picking up the heat from inside. After absorbing the heat, the refrigerant gets passed through to the compressor and outdoor coils, where the heat is dumped outdoors. After releasing the heat, pressure is released from the refrigerant, and it cools before returning back to the indoor coil.

Winter Heating Mode

In the winter, the exact opposite happens.  When the refrigerant loses pressure and turns into a vapor, heat is absorbed. The outside compressor compresses the refrigerant to change the gas to a liquid, increasing its heat under pressure. The hot refrigerant then gets transferred indoors where its heat gets released with the help of your blower. As the refrigerant loses heat, it gets pumped outside again to repeat the cycle.

Benefits of Air Source Heat Pumps

The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. If you heat with electricity, a heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30%-40%. High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in the summer months.

  • Since they don’t require flammable fuels to function, they are safer and more convenient.
  • The savings of switching to a heat pump HVAC system vary depending on the system you are replacing and the system you are replacing it with. Still, you will save on lower fuel bills.
  • You may be able to take advantage of rebates and other incentives.
  • No more fuel deliveries needed.
  • Air source heat pumps can be used for heating, cooling, and water heating.
  • Reduction in maintenance. Still, a yearly professional checkup is highly recommended.

Thinking about replacing your current HVAC system with an energy efficient air source heat pump? Call Pacific Air Systems today for a free estimate!

For more information on how your heating and cooling system works, read these articles:

Call Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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