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Heat pumps are devices that are used to extract heat from one place and transfer it to another. Obviously, they are used for heating purposes, but surprisingly, they are also a key component of cooling devices such as air conditioners and refrigerators.
For domestic and commercial purposes, a heat pump is reversible and provides the dual purpose of heating and cooling indoor spaces as required by the weather.
During summer, they pull heat from the house and expel it outdoors, while in the winter they absorb atmospheric heat and transfer it indoors. This is possible because even the coldest air contains heat – in fact, air temperature of -18C retains 85% of the heat when compared to air at 21C!
Heat pumps used in HVAC purposes can absorb heat from different sources.
There are four main ones used currently:
These type of heat pumps remove heat from the air in one location and move it to another location. With a unit placed outdoors and one indoors, it is also called a “split unit”.
One of the key components of an air-to-air heat pump is the refrigerant, which absorbs heat from a warmer area and releases it in a cooler area. Once the heat is released, the refrigerant cools down, allowing it to absorb more heat as it flows back to the warmer area.
Reversible air-to-air heat pumps can function as heaters and coolers, depending on the weather.
During summer, they pull heat trapped indoors and expel it outside. In the winter, they absorb heat from the air outside and release it inside.
These types of heat pumps have a system of pipes and a pump that pulls heat from groundwater.
The piping system can be open-loop or closed-loop. Open-loop pipes circulate water through the system before pouring it out into an underground water source (which could be natural or man-made) and then drawing it up again. Closed-loop systems circulate the same water through the pipes.
These heat pumps pull heat directly from the ground, which is almost always warmer than the surface air. The piping for these pumps is laid under the house or a few inches beneath the surface of the garden.
Hybrid heat pumps draw heat from the air, ground or groundwater and from a secondary heat source which could be a boiler.
Advantages of heat pumps
Disadvantages of heat pumps
Heat pump systems can be expensive to install.
In areas where the temperature falls below 0F, the efficiency of the heat pumps is reduced as the air they are drawing is not very warm, to begin with.
Buildings in these areas may need another source of heating for the times when the outdoor heat is insufficient to heat the indoor.
The heat produced by these heat pumps is moderate, and not efficient where blasts of hot air required to keep the area warm, such as those areas that open directly to the cold outdoors.
The heat pump systems should only be installed by a company that has experts on the movement of air currents, insulation, and the area’s geology.
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