November 16, 2022
Heat Pump Installation in Drexel Hill, PA

How a Heat Pump Switches Between Heating and Cooling

A heat pump can be a very effective system since it can be used to both heat and cool your home. The name “heat pump” sometimes confuses people at first, but it is a good name when you think about it. That’s because this unit transfers heat between two areas.

In the summer, it transfers heat from your home to the outdoors, and in the winter, it does the opposite. A heat pump can’t automatically switch between heating and cooling, but it doesn’t take long for you to switch its operation. All you have to do is to switch your thermostat from heating to cooling, and it will take care of the rest.

Heating and Cooling

Heat pumps rely on temperature differentials. When there is more warmth in one area than another, that heat can be transferred in order to make your home cooler or warmer, depending on the season. That’s because there’s an important component called a reversing valve. The reversing valve is a metal cylinder that can move back and forth depending on whether you need warm or cool air. It’s powered by a solenoid and can be easily switched between heating and cooling modes. When it does so, it reverses the flow of refrigerant.

In the summer, compressed refrigerant flows into your home and absorbs heat, or thermal energy. As that refrigerant runs through the rest of the heat pump system, whether that involves going underground or to a unit right outside your place, it releases the thermal energy. The refrigerant can then return to your home, ready to absorb heat again. The process continues until your home has reached your preferred temperature. This is a similar process to what happens with air conditioners.

However, air conditioners can’t also heat our homes. That’s because they don’t have the reversing valves that heat pumps have. When you have a heat pump and switch your thermostat from cooling to heating, the reversing valve will be signaled to do its job and the refrigerant will reverse its flow. The refrigerant will then be able to absorb heat from under the ground or from the outside air. It will bring that heat into your home, where it will release it and warm up your place.

Heat pumps are more energy-efficient than furnaces because the electricity running the appliance is used to compress refrigerant and blow air with a fan. Electric furnaces use something called resistance heating, which is a much less efficient way to heat your home.

What If Your Heat Pump Isn’t Making the Switch?

If you’ve switched your thermostat from heating to cooling mode and still haven’t noticed a difference, there could be a few potential issues. First of all, your thermostat might not be calibrated properly, or it could be having trouble communicating with the heat pump. The reversing valve could also be the culprit. If it’s not working properly, your system might not be able to heat or cool effectively. It might be stuck on a certain mode, so you’ll get warm air in the summer or cool air in the winter.

Another possibility is that you may be low on refrigerant. Refrigerant generally stays at the same level within the heat pump’s closed piping system, but there could have been a leak that you weren’t aware of. By adding more refrigerant, we can make sure that the heat can be effectively transferred. In any of these situations, help is just a phone call away. The team at O'Brien Heating & Air Conditioning can come by and figure out what’s going on before we remedy the situation.

If you sign up for annual maintenance, it can help you to prevent issues with the reversing valve before they affect your ability to stay comfortable during hot summers or cold winters. Professional maintenance visits mean that all of your parts are tested, cleaned, and lubricated before the heating or cooling season begins.

Turn to Us for Assistance

If you are interested in learning more or need help with your heat pump, you can reach out to us at O'Brien Heating & Air Conditioning. We have experience installing, repairing, and maintaining heat pumps in Drexel Hill, and we also offer other services. We’d be happy to assist you with anything related to indoor air quality, water heaters, heaters, and air conditioners. Our customers include local residents and commercial businesses, and we’re proud to have a legacy that goes back to 1955. For more than half a century, we’ve been working hard to help people in our community, and you’ll find our staff to be friendly, professional, and highly skilled. Contact us to set up an appointment or if you have any questions.

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