What Are Heat Pumps

Heat pumps move thermal energy in the opposite direction of spontaneous heat transfer, by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. A heat pump uses external power to accomplish the work of transferring energy from the heat source to the heat sink. The most common design of a heat pump involves four main components – a condenser, an expansion valve, an evaporator and a compressor. The heat transfer medium circulated through these components is called refrigerant.

While air conditioners and freezers are familiar examples of heat pumps, the term “heat pump” is more general and applies to many heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) devices used for space heating or space cooling. Heat pumps usually can be used either in heating mode or cooling mode, as required by the user. When a heat pump is used for heating, it employs the same basic refrigeration-type cycle used by an air conditioner or a refrigerator, but in the opposite direction – releasing heat into the conditioned space rather than the surrounding environment. In this use, heat pumps generally draw heat from the cooler external air or from the ground. Heat pumps can also be used in district heating and are a main element of cold district heating systems.

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Why Invest in a Heat Pump

When discussing heat pump efficiencies, the following terms are commonly used: coefficient of performance (COP), seasonal coefficient of performance (SCOP) and seasonal performance factor (SPF). The higher the number, the more efficient a heat pump is, the less energy it consumes, and the more cost-effective it is to operate.

Heat pump technology is well established and works well at all scales. Unfortunately the traditional refrigerant fluids used have very high GWP (global warming potential; a multiple of the impact of CO2, with many being over 600). Regulators have already outlawed the use of the really bad refrigerants and are closing the door on the others, leaving a few low GWP and “natural” refrigerants.

Clade are the UK leaders in the natural refrigerant CO2 with the lowest GWP possible of 1. CO2 is also the easiest to maintain and is comparable in cost to R32 but without the flammability or toxic nature.

More Information on CO2

The Heat Pump Effect