What is the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump? Actually, they are similar. First is the condenser that gives up heat to the air allowing the compressor to compress the refrigerant to liquid phase. It is then pumped through to the evaporator. Both evaporator and the condenser look kind of like a car’s radiator. A fan blows air through the evaporator cooling the air. The heat in the air is taken up by the refrigerant which expands back to its gas phase and is recirculated to the compressor and the condenser. The big power user is the compressor which is many times that of the condenser and the evaporator air fans. In fact, your air conditioner unit is the largest power consuming appliance in the home. For heating the air conditioner is mated with a furnace unit, usually natural gas. The furnace is the primary means of heating the home in winter and can either be a separate unit or incorporated into the air conditioners cabinet. The heat pump both heats the home and cools it. It has a reversing valve that switches the functioning of the condenser and evaporator. As the efficiency drops off at very low outside temperatures, they tend to have auxiliary heating coils like a giant toaster.

Does a Heat Pump Need Refrigerant to Work?

Heat pumps are usually split units with the compressor and condenser coils outside at ground level and an air handler with the evaporator inside the attic to handle the air exchange.
A reversing valve switches the condenser to an evaporator and the same happens with evaporator functioning as the condenser, pumping heat to the interior of the home. Refrigerant is a halocarbon made up of fluorine and carbon compound with a boiling point of about -15.1 degrees Fahrenheit, making it highly volatile. Volatile refers to a liquids rapid evaporation indicated by its boiling point. It can be compressed to a liquid, the small line connected to a split unit, to a gas, the larger copper line and readily takes up heat as it expands. Freon is a registered trademark for refrigerants and are technically given a “R” number. Refrigerants used today is R-12, R-13B1, R-22, R-410A, R-502 and R-503. Many refrigerants are also used in firefighting as they are nonflammable.

Heat Pump Temperature Efficiency

Heat pumps are a good solution for the south and southwestern United States, where the winters tend to be mild. Furnaces with an air conditioner makes a bit more sense as you head north. Heat pumps have a lower limit of -4 degrees Fahrenheit outside air temperature. At this and lower temperatures there is so little heat available that the heat pump is no longer capable of heating. You need a HVAC system that combines air conditioning with a furnace for heat. But in the southwest such lower temperatures is a rarity and heat pumps can operate efficiently and with auxiliary heating strips they can handle temperatures when it gets colder.

Central Air Condition & Heat Pump Installation, Replacement, Repair, Inspection, Tune Up & More in Kingwood, The Woodlands, Huffman & Greater Houston Texas

Air conditioning with a furnace or a heat pump decision is therefore dependent on the lowest ambient temperatures encountered in the winter. A heat pump is just as efficient as an air conditioning model in cooling in the summer as they operate in the cooling mode just like an air conditioning unit. West Lake Houston Air Conditioning & Heating can meet all of your heating and cooling needs. Call us to schedule service today!