How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Heat pumps are energy-efficient heating and cooling systems that are frequently used in air conditioning systems. Consisting of two units with one inside and the other outside the building, heat pumps work by pulling heat in or out of a refrigerant using natural forces. Rather than generating heat via a furnace, they can gather or disperse heat to and from the surrounding environment, no matter the outside temperature. As a result, heat pumps are often used to reduce energy consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions in a variety of industries. If you are curious as to how heat pumps can pull heat from outside a home on even the coldest days, read on as we discuss these innovative systems.

Most heat pumps consist of an evaporator, compressor, condenser, and expansion valve which work in tandem for both heating and cooling processes. Additionally, there is always a form of refrigerant which is continually changed from liquid to gas, and then back to liquid again as it moves through the system. Generally, the evaporator will be located outside of a building, while the condenser is more often located inside. Connecting these two chambers are two pipelines which carry the heated or cooled refrigerant from place to place. Inside the building, there are several options for how heat may be absorbed or dispersed into the area. Some common examples include the use of fans to circulate air around the refrigerant, or a pipeline of water which can absorb the heat or cool.


When being used to heat a space, heat pumps pull thermal energy from the surrounding environment, even when it is much colder than inside the building. The way that heat pumps accomplish this is by relying on the simple principle that heat always moves in the direction of cooler places in the effort of reaching equilibrium. In order to pull heat from outside air, heat pumps will reduce the temperature of their refrigerant even lower than that of the temperature outdoors. As a result, heat will be pulled from the outside air and into the refrigerant; however, the heat gathered here is usually not enough to reach the desired temperature on its own. This is where the second important aspect of the heat pump comes in: the natural tendency for the temperature of a gas to increase and decrease with pressure.

Based on the principle described above, heat pumps can greatly increase the small amount of heat collected into the refrigerant by raising its pressure. Similar to the way a combustion engine draws in and compresses air, the heat pump often uses a powerful turbine to heat and condense the hot refrigerant to a precise amount. Alternatively, when being used to cool the inside of a building, heat pumps will work in the opposite manner by absorbing heat from inside and dispersing it to the outside environment. After losing heat to the outside, the refrigerant is then expanded and evaporated to further reduce its temperature before being circled back into the building.

There are several types of heat pumps to choose from, including those that absorb hot and cold areas surrounding the ground, air, or a nearby water source. Some methods even use the waste heat produced by regular industrial operations to optimize their practices. Regardless of what your project requires, Industrial Gamut has you covered with a wide selection of heat pump equipment and supplies. To learn more about the types we offer and/or to receive a quote for your comparison on any item of interest, simply get in contact with a representative via email, phone, or through our Instant Request for Quote (RFQ) service. With our team of experts on standby to aid in customer inquiries and requests, you can expect a reply in as little as 15 minutes or less!


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