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How Does Heat Pump Work in Winter

submitted on 27 February 2023 by rivervalleyac.com
How Does Heat Pump Work in Winter A heat pump comes in handy in keeping a house fresh and cold by sending heat outside. However, its functionality is not limited to summer. That's because even in winter, this appliance imports heat from outside your house and brings it inside.

As a homeowner, it's essential to understand how the heat pump works so you can properly handle the issues that may arise when the heating system fails. Thankfully, there reputed HVAC companies that can help you install your new heat pump, like the one found here: https://www.rivervalleyac.com/heating-installation

In this article, we'll explore how a heat pump works in winter and what you need to do to keep it running properly all year long.

How does a heat pump work in winter?

The functionality of heat pumps in summer is the same in winter, only that it's in reverse. That means it absorbs the warmth from the air outside and brings it into your home.

The heat pump absorbs the outside warmth using the refrigerant, a heat-absorbing gas or liquid. Also, the refrigerant operates inside and outside the house in the pump's closed loop.

So, how does a heat pump switch from heating your home to cooling it?

Every heat pump features a reversing valve. This component changes the direction in which the refrigerant flows in your system. However, the change in direction is determined by the command of the thermostat.

You may wonder how a heat pump can transfer heat from outside when it's cold. As much as it may seem ironic, winter air still produces heat for absorption by the refrigerant. The heat from outside boils the refrigerant and turns it into the vaporized refrigerant.

It is then moved into the compressor and pressurized to produce higher temperatures. The hot refrigerant is then transported to the indoor heat exchanger to heat the air in your house. As the indoor air loses heat, it is liquified and transported outdoors for another heating process.

Even when the temperatures are so low, the heat pump will still have enough heat from the outdoor air.

Are heat pumps efficient when it is freezing?

Technically, heat pumps are suitable for use in moderate climates, so their efficiency may be affected when the temperatures outside are freezing.

In a worse scenario, the appliance may ultimately break down when the temperatures reduce to a certain level and start using the backup heat instead.

Nevertheless, technology has brought advanced models of heat pumps that can perform efficiently in freezing temperatures; some even function below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

These new heat pump models feature multiple compressors that adjust their heat output depending on how much heat your house demands.

If you plan to get a heat pump, ensure it will perform within the temperature range of your residential area.

For example, if you live in a freezing location, ensure your heat pump has the proper size for the heating load. Additionally, it should be confirmed to perform at freezing temperatures.

How to maximize the performance of heat pumps during winter

The operation of heat pumps in winter is different from that of warmer seasons. So you need to take care when using your heat pump in winter. That will prolong its lifespan and save money.

Here are ways you can enhance the performance of your heat pump when temperatures drop.

1. Keep the filters clean.

Dirty filters contribute to inconsistent temperatures in a heat pump. That weakens your system's power, forcing it to move air; hence, there will not be enough air needed to heat your home. But you can avoid this by cleaning your filter and improving indoor air quality.

2. Do not cover your heat pump.

The design of heat pumps allows them to survive outdoors; hence no need to cover them when it gets cold. However, covering it may cause serious problems, such as pest infestation and mold growth in the system. The good thing about heat pumps is that they can manage the effects of the weather in defrost mode.

3. Ensure your heat pump is in a clean surrounding

The surrounding of your system also determines its performance. You must therefore remove the dead leaves and dirt surrounding your heat pump. That will enable it to circulate air freely and boost its performance.

4. Observe a regular maintenance schedule

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, regular maintenance of your system guarantees efficient performance and prevents costly breakdowns. Ensure your heat pump is professionally cleaned at least once a year for utmost functionality in winter.

Does a heat pump require backup heating systems in winter

According to CBC News, there is a need for your heat pump to have a backup in the cold season. This is because most of them are not independently effective when the temperatures drop; this is where the need for a backup heating system arises.

So what's in the backup heating system?

Gas heating

This is commonly known as a furnace. Technology has tried and tested gas heaters as a home heating method. These components burn gas to create a flame that heats your home. Although installing furnaces is expensive, running them is cheap.

Electric resistance heating

Most heat pumps feature heat strips that work similarly to electric space heaters. Thus a current passes through a coil or conductive material to produce heat. Installing heat strips is cheap, but they use a lot of electricity, and that's why most experts recommend using a furnace when the need for a backup arises.


Your winter moments don't have to be tricky because heat pumps work in cold seasons, as in hot ones. A properly functioning heat pump goes a long way in saving energy costs in a home.

Some heat pumps operate in adverse weather conditions, but you need to consider the weather in your area before investing in one.

Now that you know how the system works in winter, your home shouldn't be cold, especially if you keep the heating system clean and observe a maintenance schedule at least once a year.


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