How Heat Pumps Work


How is the heat created or removed?

Have you ever placed your hand on the end of a bike pump as you are furiously trying to pump up a flat tire? Do you notice how it's very warm at that particular spot, and the tire itself is warming up? This is "Part One" of a heat pump... using compression to create heat.

Now, can you recall when you've used spray applied sun-screen on your body? Notice how cold it feels? Even though it's been sitting in the hot sun for hours? This is "Part Two" of a heat pump... using evaporation to have a cooling effect.

So now consider that the bike pump and the spray can are connected together with a continuous loop of piping. One half of the piping goes from the end of the bike pump to the bottom of the spray can. The other half goes from the tip of the spray can to the bottom of the bike pump.

If you pump the bike pump, it will begin to create pressure and heat in the loop going to the spray can. That heat can be used to heat a room by simply blowing a fan over the piping or "coils" to reject that heat into the room.

If you release the pressure back out of the can, it will have a cooling effect on the loop going back to the bike pump.

By understanding this concept, you've just understood at the very basic level how a refrigerator works. The only difference with a heat pump system is that it runs in both directions to create heat and reject heat by running the "pump" in both directions to select whether to heat or cool the indoor space.


Another very important component to the heat pump system is the refrigerant fluid contained inside the pipine/coils. This refrigerant is specifically selected to boil and condense at specific temperatures that are created by the heat pump at even very low ambient temperatures outside. As the heat pump builds compression (and heat), the refrigerant begins to boil and turn to gas. On the flip side as it cools back down, it will begin to condense and return back to fluid. The heat pump system uses this refrigerant as a very stable and reliable heat transfer medium that can be manipulated to carry energy from one place to another with very little energy input. 


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