How Does a Heat Pump Work in Winter?

How Does a Heat Pump Work in Winter?

While most homeowners in the Greater Indianapolis area are familiar with furnace heating systems, heat pumps are an energy efficient alternative for winter warmth. Heat pumps work by by transferring heat between sources rather than creating heat as a furnace does, which can lead some people wonder if heat pumps are a reliable and efficient choice for heat during cold winter temperatures. How does a heat pump work in winter? The heating experts at Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning explain it all.

Efficient Heating from Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are an efficient source of heat for homes in the Greater Indianapolis area. While a gas furnace burns fuel to create heat, a heat pump uses electricity to facilitate heat transfer. Heat is absorbed from one source and moved to another. Because they do not burn fuel to generate heat, heat pumps are generally more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than furnaces.

How Does a Heat Pump Work in Winter?

As we mentioned, an air source heat pump works by transferring heat from one source to another. For an air source heat pump, heat is transferred between a home’s indoor air and the outside air.

Even though it may not seem like it, the outside air still holds a good amount of heat energy, even though the air temperature feels cold. At certain temperatures, this heat energy is plenty enough to warm air inside a home. This is how a heat pump system operates in the winter:

  1. Refrigerant gas flowing through the outdoor coil absorbs heat energy from the outside air.
  2. The system’s compressor compresses the refrigerant, which increases its temperature.
  3. The hot gas refrigerant is sent through the system to the indoor coil.
  4. Air circulating through the indoor unit absorbs heat as it passes over the indoor coil. Air circulation cools the refrigerant in the coil, causing the gas to condense and form a warm liquid.
  5. Refrigerant cycles back to the outdoor unit and pressure declines, causing the liquid to cool.
  6. The cycle repeats.

How A Heat Pump Works In Warmer Temperatures

Air source heat pumps work in summertime work the same as they do during the winter, only backward. The heat pump switches to an air cooling process. To cool an indoor space during the summer, air source heat pumps must absorb heat from the indoor air and transfer that heat energy outside. This is the process:

  1. Air circulates through the indoor unit, passing over the indoor coil.
  2. Liquid refrigerant inside the coil absorbs heat from the air, causing the liquid to increase in temperature and evaporate, converting to a gas form.
  3. Gas refrigerant flows to the outdoor unit into the compressor.
  4. The compressor pressurizes the gas and increases its temperature.
  5. The refrigerant moves into the outdoor coil.
  6. The condenser fan moves outdoor air across the coil, causing the air to pick up heat and allowing the refrigerant to cool back into a liquid form.
  7. The cycle repeats.

Is My Heat Pump Efficient In Cold Weather?

Oftentimes with heat pumps, the worry isn’t that it won’t work in the winter, but that your heat pump won’t be efficient enough to produce the heat you need in freezing temperatures. Meaning your heat pump will have to work harder to keep your house warm, which might make your energy bills rise because your heat pump needs to run constantly. Luckily, there are are few solutions for this.

Many people with heat pumps in Indianapolis, use a dual fuel system. When the outdoor temperature reaches about 25-30 degrees is when your heat pump starts to loose efficiency. With a dual fuel system, when the temperatures drop to this level, your gas furnace will kick on and heat your home. Because temperatures seldom get this cold, you’ll still be saving a lot on your natural gas bill because you’ll only need to run your furnace occasionally instead of all winter long. Since the weather fluctuates so much in Indianapolis, this is a good idea to make sure that you are always comfortable no matter what temperature it is.

Another option is a cold climate heat pump. Cold climate heat pumps can work in the winter in very cold temperatures. Studies have shown your heat pump will still operate efficiently in negative temperatures. However, since it seldom gets that cold in Indianapolis, a cold climate heat pump might be overkill.

Heat Pump Services in Indianapolis, IN

These systems are very efficient and are an effective means for heating homes across the Indianapolis area. To learn more about heat pump installation or to schedule services for your existing heat pump, give us a call today.