As the seasons change, you may be thinking about upgrading or replacing your home’s HVAC system. If you have an older or poorly maintained system and you want to make a change, a heat pump may be a possibility.

Heat pumps are popular in California – in fact, the state considers them a superior option for their low carbon emissions. But do heat pumps work in Los Angeles?

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps are an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. Because they move or pump heat from one place to another, however, they’re ideal for mild or moderate climates.

The name implies that heat pumps pump heat into your home, but that’s not entirely accurate. For one, heat pumps transfer heat, and they can be used for cooling in the summer.
Many electric heaters work by converting electricity into heat directly, but a heat pump works by drawing the heat from the air around your home and transferring it indoors. In cold weather, it pulls the warm air from inside of your home into the outdoors.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

A heat pump is a simple system that has an outdoor unit and an indoor air handler unit, each with sub-components. It maximizes the natural transfer of thermal energy to perform heating and cooling.

The outdoor unit features a coil and a fan. In cooling mode, the coil acts as a condenser. In heating mode, the coil acts as an evaporator. The fan blows air across the coil to facilitate the heat exchange.

The indoor unit works similarly and contains a coil and a fan. The coil is an evaporator in cooling mode or a condenser in heating mode. The fan transfers the air across the coil, moving air through the ducts in your home.

The refrigerant is necessary to absorb and reject heat as it circulates through the heat pump. The compressor pressurizes the refrigerant and moves it through the system.

Another vital component is the reversing valve, which reverses the flow of refrigerant to let the system operate in both modes and switch between them. This is why a heat pump can provide outdoor-to-indoor heating in winter and indoor-to-outdoor cooling in summer.
The expansion valve regulates the flow of refrigerant in the system to ensure the pressure and temperature are at a healthy range.

Because heat energy wants to move from an area with high heat and high pressure to one with cooler air and lower pressure, a heat pump has most of its work done naturally. The heat pump puts the heat in contact with a cool, low-pressure environment, allowing the heat to find its preferred area.

That’s how a heat pump works in cooling mode, but the process is reversed for heating mode. The reversing valve reverses the flow of the refrigerant, which makes the heating source the outside air instead of the air in your home. Then, it can be pulled inside for heating.

Advantages of a Heat Pump in Los Angeles

Southern California has one of the best climates for heat pumps. Because they work similarly to an air conditioner and circulate refrigerant to pump heat from one place to another, they can perform well in a mild, comfortable climate.

The difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump, however, is that the air conditioner pumps the heat from indoors to outdoors to cool the room. With a heat pump, the air can move in either direction to provide heating or cooling as needed.

Installing a heat pump helps maintain your home’s comfort without adding too much to your energy bills, which is why it’s preferred in areas without extremely cold winters, such as Los Angeles.

In extreme cold, such as sub-freezing temperatures, a heat pump may struggle to provide adequate warmth. Over time, it will suffer from poor efficiency and won’t offer satisfying results.
Fortunately, Los Angeles has plenty of sunny days and warmth in the dead of winter, so a heat pump can provide excellent heating during the cold winter months.

Disadvantages of Heat Pump in Los Angeles

Despite its advantages, a heat pump isn’t the best option for everywhere. If you have a natural gas-powered furnace that heats your home, it’s better to choose a furnace and air conditioning unit. Buying a heat pump for just the cooling or heating is expensive, and you won’t be able to use it fully.

Heat pumps have high upfront costs for installation. In the right climate, that cost is worth the benefits in lower energy bills and lower emissions. If you’re not replacing your whole system, however, it’s less expensive to simply buy an air conditioner.

Looking to upgrade your Los Angeles home’s heating and air conditioning with JW Plumbing, Heating and Air? Schedule an appointment!

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