How Your Heating System Works - Part 3

School is back in session. No, we’re not talking about elementary school or high school. We’re talking about the series of blogs that GAMA Air is running called “Home Heating 101”. This is to help all you folks in and around Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino to better understand what happens when you turn on your central heating system. We’ve already talked about some basics in Part 1, and then about the important role of the thermostat in Part 2. Let’s dig deeper into how your heating system works by talking about the heating unit itself. In this series we will explain the three most common types of central heating for residential installation: Heat Pumps, Forced Air Furnaces, and Hot Water (or Steam) Radiant.

Heat Pump – What is it? 

Many people think of a Heat Pump as something very mysterious. But the truth is they are not that complicated. To put it very simply, a heat pump is an air conditioner that works in reverse. Have you read our series “AC 101”? Check it out for an educational course on how your air conditioner works. If you have a heat pump, then in the summer time it works like any other AC, so the AC 101 series applies to how your heat pump works when it is cooling your home.

But what about when it needs to heat your home? You may remember from AC 101 Part 1 when we explained that an AC “moves heat from the inside of your home to the outside of your home”. A heat pump does the same thing but in the winter time it works in reverse, moving heat from outside to inside your home. “But wait”, you’re thinking, “If it is cold and wintery, how can there possibly be enough heat outside to warm up my home?” Good question! We will cover that point soon.

A central heating system that uses a Heat Pump has the following two parts: A Circulating Fan-Coil unit and a Compressor/Condensing unit. In most residential installations these are two physically separate pieces of equipment. The Circulating Fan-Coil unit is inside your house, whether it is in the attic, in the crawlspace, in the garage, or maybe in a closet. Local HVAC contractors and service technicians from one part of the country may refer to this unit differently such as a Blower Unit, an Air Handler, or a Fan Coil. And the terminology also may depend on the company that manufactured the system. The Compressor/Condensing unit is outside your house, usually on the ground by an outside wall, or mounted on the outside wall, or possibly on the roof. Most simply call it “the heat pump”, unless they don’t realize what type of system it is, in which case they may call it “the AC”.

Geothermal heat pump systems are also becoming more common. For houses with this style of heat pump system, there is still an indoor unit and an outdoor unit, but there are some significant differences in the detail. We’ll get back to Geothermal heating systems in a future lesson of Home Heating 101.

There is the possibility that your heating system is a “packaged unit” located outside your house either on the roof or on the ground. In this case both parts of the heat pump are built together, or ‘packaged’, in one unit. However, for the sake of simplicity, in this lesson we will refer the Circulating Fan-Coil part as the “indoor unit” and the Compressor/Condensing part as the “outdoor unit”.

So now you know what a heat pump is, but how does it work? That’s the topic of the next lesson in our Home Heating 101 class.

Need help right away with your home’s heating or cooling system? Call GAMA Air at (310) 651-6936 or use our online form to schedule a visit at a time convenient to you for a service call. We guarantee your satisfaction 100%.

Want a quick answer to a question you have? Visit our Ask an Expert page and get a quick answer from our resident expert.

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