What Is A Heat Exchanger?

What is a heat exchanger? If you’re interested in heating or cooling your house with an air-source heat pump, a heat exchanger is a vital piece of equipment. In fact, your heat pump requires two heat exchangers to get its job done. To understand why, you’ll need to explore how a heat pump works.

Heating systems like furnaces and boilers burn fuel to produce heat. Air source heat pumps take a totally different approach. Instead of creating heat, they move it from one place to another. When set to warm an interior space, a heat pump will draw thermal energy from the air outside and transfer that energy to the air inside your home, raising the temperature inside. When cooling is desired, the process is simply reversed; thermal energy lurking in the inside air is collected by the heat pump and moved outside. Whether it’s heating or cooling, the operation of a heat pump is driven by a single principle: heat transfer. Oddly enough, refrigerators work on the same principle.

Understanding The Principle Of Heat Transfer

When you tip or tilt a glass, the water inside it generally tries to find a way to level out. Heat energy behaves in a similar fashion. It will naturally shift from a space with higher temperatures to an area with cooler ones. When this tendency is capitalized on to heat or cool a space, the area with more heat is called the heat source. The cooler area is referred to as the heat sink. To heat your home, an air source heat pump uses the outside air as a heat source and your home’s interior air as a heat sink. How does a heat exchanger fit in? It’s the technology that first extracts and then releases the thermal energy.

The Role Of Heat Exchangers

What is a heat exchanger used for? An air source heat pump has two heat exchangers. The first is found in the exterior unit. A coil of tubing filled with refrigerant, it uses the principle of heat transfer to coax thermal energy from the air. Since the space inside the coil is filled with a liquid that is cooler than the surrounding air, thermal energy is drawn into the coil. This warms the refrigerant so that it transitions to a gas. In this form, the refrigerant travels into the house to the air source heat pump’s interior unit.

The heat pump’s interior unit contains a second heat exchanger that provides a transition point between the warmer temps inside the heat exchanger coil and the home’s relatively cool environment. Naturally, the heat energy that’s been carried inside the house seeks balance and begins moving from the area with more energy (the heat exchanger coil) to the area with less (your home). As a fan directs this warmth into the ductwork so that it can circulate through the house, the refrigerant cools and condenses back into a liquid. Then, the refrigerant returns to the outside unit to continue the cycle as needed in order to maintain the desired temperature inside the dwelling.

Maintaining Your Comfort

Because they move existing thermal energy rather than manufacturing it, air-source heat pumps are incredibly efficient at both heating and cooling your home. Like any mechanical system, they do require a little routine maintenance to function at their best. To ensure that your system is always up to the task of keeping your home comfortable, you should have the heat exchangers and other components checked by a heating and cooling professional at least once a year. This regular maintenance can head off potential problems before they have a chance to cause trouble, improve your system’s efficiency, and extend its lifespan.

Long Heating and Cooling make it easy to wave goodbye to maintenance worries with our Comfort Club Maintenance Program. As a club member, you’ll enjoy two preventative maintenance visits each year: one in the spring/summer as the cooling season begins and another in the fall/winter as the need for heat takes precedence. During each maintenance visit, we can check the system’s heat exchangers and other components, clear drains, and change filters. We’ll also watch out for signs of pending trouble and warn you about any repairs that are likely to be necessary in the near future. What if a repair is necessary? Club members get 24-hour access to factory-trained technicians who are capable of servicing virtually any brand of HVAC equipment as well as a 10-percent discount on the cost of parts and labor. Available for both residential and commercial customers, our Comfort Club provides welcome peace of mind as it helps you keep your air source heat pump operating smoothly.

At Long Heating and Cooling, we thrive on providing the members of our community with the top-notch heating and cooling services that they deserve. To learn more about air source heat pumps or to delve deeper into the many benefits of joining our Comfort Club Maintenance Program, contact us today. We can also answer any questions you have relating to the query, “What is a heat exchanger?”