Here in Newbury Park, CA, more homeowners than ever are now exploring heat pump technology as a replacement for traditional HVAC systems. However, the name heat pump sometimes leaves people with the impression that the systems only offer heat in the winter. However, heat pumps can also provide air conditioning in the summer. So, to clear up that common misconception, the experts here at Southland Heating & Air Conditioning put together this helpful guide that explains how heat pumps offer cooling in the summer. Let’s get right to it.

How a Heat Pump Works

As its name suggests, a heat pump is a system that moves—or pumps—heat from one place to another. In the winter, a heat pump harvests heat energy in the outside air, amplifies it, and brings it inside to heat your home. It’s a tremendously efficient way to heat a home since the average air source heat pump can give you four units of heat for every unit of electricity consumed. That’s an astounding 400% efficiency rate!

In the summer, a heat pump operates in reverse. It collects heat from inside your home and pumps it to the outside to eliminate it, thus cooling your indoor spaces. Mechanically, heat pumps are all but identical to conventional air conditioning systems. They cool your home exactly the same way. In fact, there’s only one major mechanical difference between a heat pump and a conventional air conditioner. It’s the reversing valve and associated hardware needed to operate as a heat source in the winter.

A heat pump operating in cooling mode, however, does offer some cooling advantages over a conventional air conditioner. One is that they do a much better job of dehumidifying your home than a comparable AC would. Lower indoor humidity helps you to feel cooler even at a higher air temperature. In the summer months, it’s often the outdoor humidity that leads to the highest demand for air conditioning, making this a critical advantage. In practice, it means that owners of heat pumps don’t have to lower their thermostats as much to stay comfortable compared to owners of traditional air conditioners.

Plus, many heat pumps use variable-speed motors to precisely control their energy usage. This means they only use as much power as necessary to reach your desired temperature and keep your home there. That’s a big difference between them and standard air conditioners, which often have only one speed. Because of that, a conventional air conditioner runs at maximum power whenever it’s on, whether conditions require it to or not.

The Basics of the Heat Pump Cooling Process

To understand a little more about how a heat pump cools your home in the summer, you must get to know a heat pump’s major components first. A heat pump has several major components, all housed within an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit functions as a heat exchanger that expels heat into the outdoors in the summer and harvests heat from the outside air in the winter. The indoor unit is an air handler that extracts heat from the inside air in the summer and expels heat into the indoor air in the winter.

The key to the whole process is refrigerant. In heat pumps, a refrigerant serves as a medium for the transfer of heat into and out of your home. Today, most residential heat pumps rely on one of three types of refrigerants. They are R134A, R407C, and R410A. Chemically, each has slightly different properties, but they all take advantage of the same process to cool your home—the refrigeration cycle.

Understanding the Refrigeration Cycle

The cooling process employed by a heat pump consists of four steps. In step one, the refrigerant, in liquid form, gets pumped through the coils inside the heat pump’s indoor unit. There, a fan blows warm air from inside your home across the coils. That allows the refrigerant to absorb the heat from the air, cooling it down in the process. It is that cool air that then gets distributed around your home.

As the refrigerant absorbs heat, however, it evaporates into a hot gas. That’s where step two comes into play. Step two begins as the hot refrigerant gas reaches the outdoor unit. There, a compressor increases the pressure on the gas, which causes it to heat up even further. From there, the gas travels into the condenser coils housed inside the outdoor unit.

In step three, the heat pump engages a fan that blows outside air across the condenser coils. The refrigerant gas, now much hotter than the outdoor air, releases its heat into the environment. As it does this, the refrigerant cools down and turns back into liquid form. However, the refrigerant is still too warm to use for cooling your indoor spaces at that point.

Step four takes care of the remaining heat in the refrigerant. In this final phase of the refrigeration cycle, the warm, liquid refrigerant passes through an expansion valve. This relieves the remaining pressure on the liquid, which grows cold as a result. From there, the refrigerant’s ready to travel back into your home to start the process all over again.

Can a Heat Pump Replace an AC?

It’s also worth pointing out that a heat pump can serve as a direct replacement for a conventional air conditioning system. Since they’re mechanically similar and share a form factor, it’s possible to install a heat pump in place of your existing central air conditioning system. And if your home doesn’t already have air conditioning, there are other options, too.

Several manufacturers make mini-split heat pump systems that don’t require ductwork to cool your home. They make a perfect upgrade to add efficient air conditioning to a home or to provide air conditioning in spaces that didn’t previously have it. In addition, mini-split systems offer simplified installation, so the process of putting one in wouldn’t be as disruptive to your home and the people in it.

Consult the Heat Pump Experts

If a heat pump sounds too good to pass up, Southland Heating & Air Conditioning can help. We have over 50 years of experience in the HVAC industry and a long list of satisfied customers in the area. To see what we mean, you can browse our long list of five-star customer reviews right on our website. We also offer comprehensive heat pump installation, maintenance, and repair services. And we can also install and service all other types of HVAC equipment, too. We carry the latest HVAC equipment from industry standouts Lennox, Trane, and Mitsubishi. Plus, we even offer financing on approved credit to help homeowners afford a new heat pump or any other comfort systems or services they require.

So, for heat pump installation and all of your other HVAC needs in Newbury Park, call Southland Heating & Air Conditioning, your local HVAC experts!

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