When it comes to residential heating and air conditioning in Austin, TX, a heat pump is a great installation. Heat pumps use the basic operating principles as an air conditioner to siphon heat from one location and release it in another. (A process known as heat exchange.) The major difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump is that a heat pump can move heat both directions: it can release it outdoors or release it indoors. With only a change on the thermostat, a heat pump changes from an air conditioner into a heater.
But what makes a heat pump—internally, at least—different from an air conditioner? There are a few specific parts of a heat pump that allow it to perform its dual function:
1. The reversing valve
This is sine qua non of a heat pump, the piece that allows the system to route refrigerant in different directions depending on the setting. The valve contains a slider that alters whether the refrigerant leaving the compressor moves first to the indoor coils or the outdoor coils. If this valve breaks, the heat pump will become frozen in one mode.
2. Suction line accumulator
This component located between the compressor and the reversing valve is responsible for holding the excess amount of refrigerant that is unneeded during heating mode. (A heat pump doesn’t use the same amount of refrigerant when acting as a heater.)
3. Crankcase heater
Because refrigerant can move through a heat pump in two directions, the compressor needs to have precautions in case cold refrigerant moves the opposite direction and enters it. The crankcase heater evaporates any cold liquid refrigerant that enters the compressor the wrong way.
4. Extra condensate pan and drain
Moisture only drips from the evaporator coil in an air conditioner. But in a heat pump, both the indoor and outdoor coil can act as the evaporator, and so both must have a condensate pan and drain to remove the moisture that collects on the coil.
If your heat pump encounters any operating problems, make sure you call on experienced technicians to take care of it. An amateur who is only familiar with air conditioner can make serious mistakes attempting to fix a heat pump.
iNtelligent Air Services offers professional 24-hour emergency service for heat pumps in Austin, TX and the surrounding areas.