How Is a Heat Pump Different from an Air Conditioner?

Heat pumps and air conditioners are, in most important ways, the same type of appliance. They operate on the principle of heat exchange, the shifting of heat from one location to another, and both use the same types of refrigerant to move heat between sets of cabinets. Most of their internal components are identical, and when a heat pump is in cooling mode, there is little outward difference between it and an air conditioner.

Of course, there is an important difference between the two: a heat pump can work as both a heating and cooling system. In this post, we’ll look at a few of the internal differences between the two systems that allow a heat pump to perform two functions.

For more information regarding heat pumps, or to schedule service for the heat pump that keeps your home comfortable around the year, call on Certified Air Systems, Inc. We provide installation, repair, and maintenance for heat pumps in Orlando, FL.

The Heat Pump Difference

The key difference in a heat pump is a component called the reversing valve. This valve is attached to the refrigerant line near where it exits from the compressor, and it is what allows the heat pump to change between heating and cooling mode. When a slider in the valve moves, it reverses the direction that refrigerant travels when it exits the compressor. If the valve moves the refrigerant to the outdoor coils first, the unit is in cooling mode. If it moves the refrigerant to the indoor coils first, the unit is in heating mode.

Another difference is that a heat pump uses less refrigerant when in heating mode. A component called the suction line accumulator, positioned between the compressor and the reversing valve, siphons away the extra refrigerant until it is needed again, and helps prevent this refrigerant from flowing back into the compressor. A crankcase heater on the compressor takes care of evaporating any liquid refrigerant that might enter the compressor from the wrong direction.

Finally, heat pumps need to have two sets of condensate pans and drains, one for the outdoor unit and one for the indoor unit. An air conditioner only requires one set, since evaporation and dripping water moisture only occurs in the indoor unit.

Do you have more questions about heat pumps? Don’t hesitate to give our professionals a call at Certified Air Systems, Inc. We’ve served Central Florida since 1993 with high quality heating, cooling, and indoor air quality, including comprehensive services for heat pumps in Orlando, FL.

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