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Last updated: 25 March 2021

Air to Water Heat Pumps: Working Principles

General Information about Air to Water Heat Pumps

Air to water heat pumps can provide efficient heating and cooling for your household, especially if you live in a moderate climate. After proper installation, an air to water heat pump can offer from one and a half up to 3 times more thermal energy to a home than the electricity it spends. This can happen due to the fact that the heat pump transfers heat, rather than transforming it from a type of fuel like regular combustion heating systems do.

Although air-source heat pumps are used in most of the United States and Scandinavian countries, they generally do not perform very well under freezing temperatures. In climates with sub-freezing winter temperatures, air to water heat pumps may not be cost-effective for all your heating needs. If you were to install a gas heating system to work as a backup, you can overcome this issue. However, air to water heat pumps specially designed for cold climates started to produce promising results. 

How Do Air to Water Heat Pumps Work?

A complete and modern heat pump system offers effective energy saving and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Heat production is safe and economical due to its integrated hot water heater, immersion heater, circulation pump, and the climate system in the indoor unit. The heat is fetched from outside through an outdoor unit where the refrigerant that circulates in a closed piping system, transferring the heat from the source to the indoor unit. The criteria by which heat is transferred can be simplified as follows:

  1. An outdoor unit takes in heat from the ambient air and transfer it to a coolant
  2. A compressor increases the temperature of the coolant
  3. The coolant transfers the heat to a hot water reserve tank via a heat exchanger
  4. Hot water is circulated to radiators and faucets
  5. Cold water is transported back to the tank
  6. The coolant is transferred from the tank to the outdoor unit

By reversing the process above, the refrigerant in the outdoor unit would take the heat from the water and release it in the outside environment, thus the heat pump can cool the household if necessary. Read here more about how air-source heat pumps work.

1 1: An outdoor unit takes in heat from the ambient air and transfers it to a coolant. 2 2: A compressor increases the temperature of the coolant further. 3 3: The coolant transfers the heat to a hot water reserve tank via a heat exchanger. 4 4: Hot water from the tank is circulated to radiators and faucets in the house. 5 5: Cold water is transported back to the water reserve tank. 6 6: The coolant is cooled by the water and transferred back to the outdoor unit to be heated again.
Air to Water Heat Pump

Air-Source Heat Pumps Advanced Technologies

Like in every new sector of technology, advancements are always close-by. In the heat pump sector, there is no exception. That is why three new systems have risen enough to attract interest:

  • The Reverse cycle chiller (RCC) - it allows you to choose from a wide variety of heating and cooling distribution systems, such as radiant floor systems and forced air systems with multiple zones. This gives you the possibility to operate at peak efficiency even at low temperatures. A RCC system is recommended for all-electric homes.
  • The Cold Climate Heat Pump - it features a two-speed, two-cylinder compressor for efficient operation, a back-up booster compressor that allows the system to function efficiently even at -9.4. It also disposes of a plate heat exchanger, which is also known as an “economizer” that further extends the performance of the heat pump to below -18 degrees celsius. This system is soon going to be available to household consumers as well.
  • The All Climate Heat Pump - the manufacturer stated that it can operate even in the coldest winter conditions without derivative heat, maintaining a pleasant indoor temperature even when temperatures outside drop below -20. This heat pump could reduce heating and cooling costs by somewhere between 25 and 60 percent. The All Climate system incorporates heating as a primary function, thus initial costs are high but the system continues to improve daily so the energy savings would more than compensate the up-front cost.

In conclusion, the air to water heat pump is the way to future in matters of green and clean heating systems. Although initial costs are high, the benefits can be seen in one year after your investment has been made and regret is going to be the last thing on your mind.

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