What Students in HVAC Technician Training Should Know About Heat Pumps

February 18, 2020

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Heat pump systems are often used in air conditioners, heaters, and refrigerators to transfer hot or cold air using electricity. They are energy-efficient and can be used as air conditioners on hot summer days, or heaters during the winter months.

Since heat pumps are such a common tool in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry, aspiring technicians should expect to become very familiar with them throughout their education and future career. Read on for an introduction to heat pumps to get you warmed up!

Learn How Heat Pumps Work With an HVAC Diploma

Heat pumps are not a new technology. In fact, the first heat pump was invented in 1948 by Robert C. Webber. Since then, the technology has been developed to resemble the air conditioning and heating units we have in our homes and offices today. HVAC technician courses will give you the opportunity to learn hands-on how this technology works.

Heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling services. In heating mode, heat is absorbed from outside by the condenser coil and transferred to the interior space via air vents. Even on cold winter days, heat pumps are able to collect warm air from outside. However, if there’s not enough warm air outside, heat pumps can use electric energy or an additional gas furnace to provide extra heat.


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Heat pumps can keep your home toasty and warm in winter, and refreshingly cool in summer

In air conditioning mode, the cycle is reversed. Warm air inside the house is pulled into the system with a motorized fan and transferred outside, usually behind or underneath the condenser coil. Cool and dehumidified air then enters the home through the air vents.

Heat Pumps are Energy Efficient

Eco-conscious homeowners will be relieved to discover that heat pumps are incredibly energy efficient. As you will learn in HVAC technician training, heat pumps generate 4 units of thermal energy per 1 unit of electricity used – that’s an efficiency rating of 400%!

In contrast, electrical heaters are 100% efficient, meaning that they generate 1 unit of thermal energy for every 1 unit of electricity. As well as this, heat pumps generate zero emissions, so are a great option for people that want to warm or cool their homes without damaging the planet.

Air Source vs. Ground Source Heat Pumps

As an HVAC technician, you will need to know about two main types of heat pumps: air source and ground source. Air source heat pumps are the most common type and absorb or reject heat from the outdoor air.

As the name suggests, ground source heat pumps get heat from the ground or from water. These are sometimes referred to as geothermal heat pumps and are actually slightly more efficient than air source systems. However, they are more expensive and complicated to install as the systems will need to be built into the soil around a home.

What are the Main Heat Pump Parts?

Air source and ground source heat pumps are made up of a number of components. These include:

  • Compressor– to move the refrigerant through the system
  • Control board – to control whether the system is in cooling or heating mode
  • Condenser coil – to transfer heat outside in cooling mode
  • Evaporator coil–to transfer heat inside in heating mode
  • Refrigerant – a chemical substance that moves heat through the system
  • Thermostat – to choose the desired temperature

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