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What are Heat Pumps?

10/18/2013 10:36:47 AM | by Anonymous

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are devices structured to transfer heat energy from a heat source to a heat sink against a gradient. They are typically used to assist both the heating and cooling systems in homes and commercial buildings. The device is designed to specifically emanate hot or cold air whenever needed. They help to move thermal energy opposite the direction of spontaneous heat flow. A heat pump also uses some amount of external high grade energy to accomplish the desired transfer of thermal energy from the heat source to heat sink.


One common example of this type of device is the refrigerator. In the refrigerator, there is a special working fluid placed around the refrigeration circuit in order for it to operate the heat pump. The refrigeration circuit commonly contains four elements: the condenser, compressor, expansion valve and evaporator.


The working fluid evaporates with the help of the evaporator whenever heat is drawn away from the source. It is only then heat is released. This results in the area cooling down due to the heat release. At the same time where the heat is released to cool air, the working fluid is now being condensed by the condenser. A reversing valve also creates cool air at the same time. The direction of the working fluid is reversed in order for the process to start all over again. Similarly, a heat pump removes heat from the source in order to keep a specific area cool like the refrigerator.


Heat pumps are commonly used in areas where cooling or heating is needed which are also areas where the cooling and current heat source is inadequate. Thus, they are often used with cooling systems and space heating along with industrial and domestic dehumidification as well as in the heating of domestic water. A heat pump separates the heat from various sources like the soil, air, bedrock and water in standard heating applications. On the other hand, in cooling applications, the heat is discharged instead of being separated. This device is the common option in domestic and industrial settings where cooling and heating are needed because it requires less energy than other methods and electricity.


Two common types of heat pumps are typically the compression and the absorption heat pumps. Compression heat pumps function on mechanical energy that is typically electricity driven, whereas absorption heat pumps also run on heat as an energy source which is from electricity or burnable fuels. For example, an absorption heat pump may be fueled by natural gas or LP gas. While the gas utilization efficiency in such a device may only average to 1.5 which is comparatively better than a natural or LP gas which can only approach 1. The gas utilization efficiency is a ratio of the energy supplied to the energy consumed.


Although an absorption heat pump may not be as efficient as a compression heat pump, it still has its advantages in locations where electricity is relatively expensive and natural gas is relatively cheaper. A natural gas fired absorption heat pump can also avoid the cost of an electrical service upgrade that is sometimes necessary for the electric heat pump to be installed. In the case of air to air heat pumps, the absorption heat pump might also have their advantages in colder regions due to the lower operating temperature.


There are also an extensive range of heat pumps available in the market. Each of it has its own specific benefits and uses to suit different needs. One of the most widely known forms is the ground source heat pump. This means that they do not have an external fan and are thus very quiet. Additionally, it has a lower percentage chance of lower risk of damage than models with external fans. On top of that, it also has a relatively long lifespan of over forty years.

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