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Heat Pumps

Cooling Cycle

Heating Cycle


Q1. What is a heat pump?
A heat pump is basically a central air conditioning system that also has the ability to heat your home during weather months. It's called a "heat pump" because it pumps heat into your home in the winter, and pumps heat out of your home in the summer. Its ability to heat as well as cool makes it very economical and efficient as a home comfort system.


Q2. How does a heat pump work?
In the summer, it functions exactly like a standard central air conditioning system, pulling the heat out of your home and releasing it outside.

In the winter, the process is reversed, extracting the heat present in outdoor air and pumping it into your home.


Q3. How can a heat pump obtain heat from cold winter air?
As strange as it may seem, heat is present in all air, even air that's well below freezing. Think of the way your refrigerator removes unwanted heat that accumulates when you open the door and place warm food inside. You can feel that heat coming back into your kitchen from the refrigerator's exhaust fan.

In a similar way, a heat pump removes heat from cold outdoor air and delivers it to your home to keep you warm and comfortable.


Q4. What does a heat pump look like?
A typical heat pump installation consists of two parts: an outdoor unit that contains the outdoor coil, compressor, reversing valve, and fan; and an indoor unit that contains the indoor coil, supplemental heater and fan.

The outdoor unit looks exactly like a central air conditioner in both size and appearance. The indoor unit is called an air handler and looks similar to a gas furnace.


Q5. Where is the furnace?
There isn't one. The heat pump takes its place. Because a heat pump simply moves heat from one place to another, there is no burning of fuel to make heat - no smoke and no fumes.


Q6. Do heat pumps have efficiency ratings?
Yes. In fact, they have two: one for heating and one for cooling. The heating rating is called the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), whereas the cooling rating is called the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). In either case, the higher the number, the greater the efficiency and the lower the operating costs.

When comparing ratings, remember that they are based on the total system, meaning the combination of the outdoor unit and the indoor unit.


Q7. Why is a heat pump so economical?
During the heating season, a heat pump simply has to move heat instead of making it. Unlike a furnace that must turn fossil fuel or electricity into heat, the heat pump simply collects heat that already exists in the outdoor air and pumps it into your home.

Why do heat pumps have supplemental heaters?

Heat naturally migrates from warmer to colder areas through windows, doors, ceilings and walls. Insulation, weather-stripping and caulk slow down this heat loss, but cannot totally eliminate it. The colder it becomes, the faster a home loses heat.

The supplemental heater helps the heat pump during weather extremes when a home may lose heat faster than the heat pump can replace it. Electric heating elements in the indoor unit turn on automatically to make up the difference.

Why does my heat pump blow cooler air sometimes in the winter?

During the heating cycle in the winter, the outdoor unit will begin to frost or "ice up"; this occurrence is normal. The heat pump will then perform a "Defrost Cycle" where it literally will go into air conditioning function in order to use the hot refrigerant from the indoor unit to "de-ice" the outdoor coils. When this happens, the supplemental heat inside the indoor unit will come on in order to keep from blowing really cold air out of the grilles inside. When this happens, the indoor air will be cooler than what you usually experience. This will only happen for a period of 5 to 10 minutes at most, and only when the outdoor unit calls for the defrost cycle to occur.

When this happens, the outdoor unit will also make "groaning noises" and the fan on top of the outdoor unit may also stop operating in order to allow the de-icing process to occur most efficiently.


Q8. Why do heat pumps have supplemental heaters?
Heat naturally migrates from warmer to colder areas through windows, doors, ceilings and walls. Insulation, weather-stripping and caulk slow down this heat loss, but cannot totally eliminate it. The colder it becomes, the faster a home loses heat.

The supplemental heater helps the heat pump during weather extremes when a home may lose heat faster than the heat pump can replace it. Electric heating elements in the indoor unit turn on automatically to make up the difference.


Q9. Why does my heat pump blow cooler air sometimes in the winter?
During the heating cycle in the winter, the outdoor unit will begin to frost or "ice up", this is a normal occurrence. The heat pump will then perform a "Defrost Cycle" where it literally will go into air conditioning function in order to use the hot refrigerant from the indoor unit to "de-ice" the outdoor coils. When this happens, the supplemental heat that is inside the indoor unit will come on in order to keep from blowing really cold air out of the grilles inside. When this happens, the indoor air will be cooler than what you usually experience. This will only happen for a period of 5 to 10 minutes at most and only when the outdoor unit calls for the defrost cycle to occur.

When this happens, the outdoor unit will also make "groaning noises" and the fan on top of the outdoor unit may also stop operating in order to allow the de-icing process to occur most efficiently.


Q10. When should I have my system serviced?
Preventive maintenance is the least expensive kind. Keeping your system in top condition through regular checkups is the best way to ensure that it will keep working for you.

The best time to have your system checked is in early spring and fall, before the season starts. Kendall County Air offers a service contract that provides routine maintenance, including monitoring motors, belt tightening, clearing drain lines and checking refrigerant levels, among a list of other items. And with a Planned Service Contract, we call you so you don't have to remember to call us.