Living room to represent the question What is a Central Air Heat Pump_central air heat pump

What is a Central Air Heat Pump?

Heating and cooling are essential for a comfortable home. Your middle Tennessee home still gets cold in the winter even though it doesn’t see a lot of snow. We need reliable and effective means of heating our homes in order to keep up with the plummeting temperatures of the winter. We also need cool air in the summer.

A central air heat pump allows you to comfortably walk around your home and keeps your plumbing from freezing when the temperature dips toward the freezing mark and when it climbs toward triple digits. However, it also provides a number of benefits when compared to a standard furnace and air conditioner.

Heat pumps are an alternative to gas-powered heating inside your home. These systems are useful, effective, but can also be a little confusing. So let’s look into the basics of central air heat pumps.

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What Are the Components?

Most of us are familiar with central air conditioning. This is especially true for those of us in mid state Tennessee. Air Conditioning is a necessity when the middle of the summer comes around. Central Air Conditioning is operated by an exterior unit that pumps cool air throughout a system of ductwork within the house. We feel the cool air coming through the vents.

A heat pump works in a similar fashion from the user’s perspective. The temperature in the home is controlled with a thermostat and the heat pump does the rest. However, the mechanisms within the heat pump are fairly intricate.

The phrase “heat pump” can be a little misleading. It leads people to assume it is only responsible for providing heat to a home. However, it also provides the cool air to the home during summer months.

Through the use of refrigerants, fans, valves, and compressors, a central air heat pump regulates the balance between the air inside the home and the air outside the home. In the summer, warm air is moved out and replaced with cooler air. The operations are reversed in the winter. These complex systems operate on their own and the user inside the home doesn’t have to do much more than figure out their ideal temperature and set it on the thermostat.

How Does a Central Air Heat Pump Work?

Most heat pumps involve an outdoor unit that looks very similar to a standard air conditioner, and another unit inside the house.

The system will always have two opposite sides: high pressure and low pressure. It is through the manipulation of this pressure that a flow of air is created.

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The compressor receives cool vapor when the system is operating in the summer, which it pumps into the high pressure side. This creates a hot gas that travels through the reversing valve. This routes it to the outside coil. An outdoor fan removes the heat which condenses the refrigerant into a liquid. It travels through the check valve (which bypasses an expansion valve).

The cooler refrigerant is still under high pressure as it travels into the indoor unit where it passes through an expansion valve. This valve slows the flow of refrigerant to decrease the pressure on the resulting end, which allows it to evaporate.

Heat from the house is being sucked out through the vents and passed through this section of the coils. The evaporating refrigerant absorbs heat from this air while also gathering moisture to help dehumidify the house. The cooled air is pumped into the house and the refrigerant cycles back around to repeat the process.

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The reversing valve re-routes the path of the refrigerant. This turns the indoor coil into the condenser and the outdoor coil into the evaporator. Essentially, heat is absorbed by the evaporator, and then brought inside by the condenser and released into the house.

To further illustrate the opposite machinations, the indoor expansion valve is now bypassed while the outdoor expansion valve is active.

Now that the evaporator is outside, however, it must operate at temperatures lower than that of the air in order to absorb heat. This allows ice to build on the evaporator which must occasionally be thawed.

The defrost cycle addresses this issue. The flow of refrigerant switches back to how it operates in the summer. The heats the coil and melts the ice. A heat strip is used to keep the air flowing into the home from becoming noticeably cold throughout this cycle.

Conditioning/Heating Benefits

The main benefit of a central air heat pump is efficiency. The fact that they run on electricity instead of gas can provide big savings for the homeowner. This also means they don’t have a directly harmful environmental impact.

The savings also extends to maintenance when compared to a standard heater. Heat pumps tend to require less attention. Annual checkups are recommended but these are fairly inexpensive.

Heat pumps also have a generally long lifespan. The average life of a unit is around 15 years, but some can make it up to 50 years.

Environmental impact, cost savings, and efficiency make central air heat pumps a great option for those in Nashville, Franklin, Clarksville, and anywhere else in middle Tennessee.

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