More and more, Austin residents are turning to heat pumps to keep their homes warm during the winter. Perhaps you’ve heard of heat pumps but have no idea what they are or how they work. One common misunderstanding stems from the fact that heat pumps use refrigerant to do their heating work. Since refrigerant is typically associated with an air conditioner, this can be a confusing realization. To better understand how heat pumps work and the role that refrigerant plays in their operation, don’t miss this insider’s look at heat pumps from Quality Cooling & Heating.


Understanding how a heat pump works requires a quick lesson on thermodynamics. Due to diffusion, energy will always move from an area of greater concentration to an area of lesser concentration. In a heat pump, the type of energy that moves from one area to another is heat energy. The vehicle that moves the heat energy from one place to another is the refrigerant in the heat pump. When the refrigerant is outside, the system expands the refrigerant to lower its temperature to a point that’s below the ambient air temperature. This means that the refrigerant can absorb heat from the air. Then, when the refrigerant is inside, the warm refrigerant disperses its heat energy to the indoor air because the indoor air is cooler than the temperature of the refrigerant.

Running in Reverse

One reason why Quality Cooling & Heating likes installing heat pumps is that they are more simple than a conventional HVAC system with an air conditioner and a furnace. That’s because a heat pump can serve as both a heater and an air conditioner. In the summer, the system works to increase the temperature of the refrigerant when the refrigerant is outside your home. This allows it to expel the heat from inside your home. The opposite is true when the refrigerant is inside your home. The component that makes this all possible is called the reversing valve. The reversing valve determines which way the refrigerant flows through the compressor, which, in turn, determines at which locations the refrigerant is cold and hot.

Defrost Cycle

As you’re thinking about a heat pump circulating cold refrigerant outside on a cold day, you may begin to wonder why the system doesn’t freeze. Fortunately, the refrigerant that Quality Cooling & Heating uses in heat pumps has a very low freezing point, meaning that it’s nearly impossible for the refrigerant line to freeze up. On certain cold days, though, you may notice ice forming on the outside of the refrigerant line. This happens when humidity in the air condenses on the below-freezing refrigerant line. To fix this problem, a heat pump can switch the position of the reversing valve to allow the heat pump to draw heat from your home to remove the frost from the refrigerant line. To prevent your home’s interior temperature from dropping, every heat pump has an auxiliary heating unit to provide heat until the defrost cycle finishes.

Importance of Maintenance

The critical role that refrigerant plays in a heat pump makes proper maintenance by Quality Cooling & Heating absolutely critical. Any problems with your system’s refrigerant line will be magnified because they will reduce your system’s efficiency throughout the year instead of just in the summer as with a conventional HVAC system. Every time a technician comes to your home for a maintenance visit, they will check the pressure of the refrigerant in the refrigerant line. If the pressure isn’t where it should be, they will work to identify and repair the source of the leak and then replace the lost refrigerant to ensure your system can operate efficiently. Scheduling bi-annual maintenance visits from Quality Cooling & Heating will further reduce the risk of any problems developing that could reduce your home’s comfort.

Home Comfort Specialists

At Quality Cooling & Heating, we take your comfort seriously. We also want to give you options to help improve your comfort that will precisely meet your needs. That’s why we offer heat pump installation, air conditioner repair, and furnace maintenance. Plus, we can install air purifiers, carbon monoxide detectors, whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers, and perform duct cleaning. We take pride in every job we do and treat every customer with respect. That’s a big reason why we’re rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau and continually receive five-star customer reviews. Since our founding more than 35 years ago, we’ve been able to grow our business without ever compromising our values. To learn more about heat pumps and how they can help your home, contact us at Quality Cooling & Heating today.

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