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How Does a Heat Pump Work in the Winter?

Heat pumps are remarkable devices that combine the power of an air conditioner and a heater in one convenient unit. Heat pumps actually use the same action to produce cooling as to produce heat; they aren’t two separate units packaged together. This often leads to some confusion in homeowners about how exactly a heat pump operates. We’ll go into a bit more detail about how these systems work and answer a question we often hear: how can a heat pump extract heat from cold weather during the winter?

If you need help installing, repairing, or maintaining a heat pump, contact the Springfield, OR heating system specialists at Comfort Flow Heating. We offer 24-hour emergency heating repair in Springfield, OR.

Heat pump basics

A heat pump operates in the same way as an air conditioning system, except it can run the direction of the heat exchange two ways. Heat exchange is the movement of heat from one location to another. When a heat pump is in cooling mode, heat exchange carries heat from the inside of a home and removes it to the outside. Removing heat gives the feeling of cool, and the blower fans send out this conditioned air through your home. But when the heat pump changes over to heating mode, the direction switches so the heat pump removes heat from outside and brings in indoors.

“But wait,” people often ask at this point, “since the heat pump will only run in heating mode during cold weather, how is it removing heat from the outside? How can it get heat from cold air?”

The answer is that there is always some heat in cold air, unless the temperature is absolute zero (which is a hypothetical temperature anyway) and there is no molecular motion. As long as there is some molecular motion, some heat exists. The heat pump uses the process of evaporation to extract the heat that is available.

However, it does become more and more difficult for heat pumps to remove the heat the lower the thermometer drops. When the temperature goes below freezing, heat pumps will tend to start losing their heating efficiency. In general, heat pumps have lower efficiency ratings for heating than they do for cooling. For this reason, we highly recommend that you consult with heating experts before you schedule a heat pump installation. Professional installers can estimate whether a heat pump will be able to provide sufficient heat for your home, and offer other options if a heat pump is not the ideal choice.

Call us for heating advice

Comfort Flow Heating has more than half a century of experience with heating homes, so you can trust us to provide you with what you need for heating this winter. If you need heating repair in Springfield, OR—or any other heating service—contact us today.

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