Diagram explaining how a heat pump works

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What is a Heat Pump?

You may recall hearing the term ‘icebox’ used in an old movie or television show to keep meat and produce fresh. Now having a block of ice will keep things cool for a while but inevitably you’ll end up with a bucket full of water! So, what is a heat pump and what has it got to do with an icebox! Not too much, actually, but it does have a lot to do with your refrigerator or air conditioner, two of the most common uses for heat pumps.

What is a heat pump exactly?

Heat Pump is an electrical device that extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another in order to maintain a constant temperature. It can be used for both cooling and heating, and the technology is not new – it has been around for decades, in fact.

How does a heat pump work?

  • A heat pump transfers heat by circulating a refrigerant through a cycle of evaporation and condensation.
  • A compressor pumps the refrigerant through two heat exchanger coils.
  • In one coil, the refrigerant is evaporated at low pressure and absorbs heat from its surroundings.
  • The refrigerant is then compressed on the way to the other coil where it condenses at high pressure.

The cycle is fully reversible, meaning a heat pump can provide year around climate control for your home. While a refrigerator may be a common household appliance, home heating systems can also exploit this technology by using the earth’s natural heat to provide central home heating and cooling.

In colder climates, an air-source heat pump will absorb heat from the outside and transfer it into warm air for home heating.

When answering the question of what is a heat pump, one cannot ignore geothermal heat pumps. Geothermal heat pumps use the natural energy of ground heat to transfer that heat into a house. According to ENERGY STAR, a geothermal heat pump is the one of the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available. In fact, this technology is so efficient and clean, that homeowners who install a geothermal heating system by 2016 are eligible for a U.S. federal tax credit of up to 30 percent.

Increasing the energy efficiency of your home through this technology will save you money in the long run. Have a certified RESNET Home Rater or Auditor visit your home to explain how and where your home is losing energy and what steps you can take to correct any problems.

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