How Your Heating System Works - Part 6

Maybe your kids or the kids in your neighborhood are excited the end of the school year, but what about you? Are you ready to continue learning with our lessons brought to you by GAMA Air about how your heating system works? We’re moving on to Part 5 of Home Heating 101, with the goal to help all of you living 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 their heating systems fires up. The more you know, the better you will take care of your central heating system, and the better you will be at controlling your utility costs where possible. Here’s a link to Part 5 where we explained, in simple terms, the refrigeration cycle that heat pumps use to heat your home. Grab a notepad and a glass of iced tea and let’s move on to the next lesson. 

When we last left the heat pump’s refrigerant, we mentioned it had added heat to the air in your home and was heading to the outdoor unit where it is pushed through a very small hole, dropping the pressure and chilling the outdoor coil. This is where the outdoor fan comes into play. Even on a freezing cold winter day, the air outside is warmer than the coil. That means the fan blowing outside is warming the refrigerant back up again. As a side note, if you put your hand over the fan then you may not feel like it is any colder than the outdoor temperature, but it is. Some of the heat is being transferred to the refrigerant in the coil. Next the compressor in the outdoor unit compresses this cool gaseous refrigerant to a much higher pressure which quickly heats it up to a very hot gas. This is the hot refrigerant that is pumped into your indoor unit, which we described in Part 5. And the cycle continues: Moving heat from outdoors into your home.

Now here’s an important detail we need to explain. This is probably the most misunderstood part of the normal operation of a heat pump central heating system. Like we said, heat pumps can still pull heat out of the air outside even if it is below freezing. However, as you know water freezes when the temperature gets to 32 degrees and below. This means when it is at or below freezing outside then frost will gradually build up on the outdoor coil. It will build up faster if it close to freezing and it is raining, or if it is snowing. This is normal and your heat pump is designed to keep the build-up from blocking airflow entirely. When it is cold enough outside for frost to build up, a controller on the outdoor unit starts a timer of about an hour or so (it could be longer or shorter depending on how cold it is, or on the specific design of the brand you have). When the timer runs out the defrost cycle starts. In very simple terms the flow of refrigerant is reversed and for a few minutes the heat pump is running in cooling mode, just as it does in the summer time. This quickly heats up the outdoor unit and melts the frost and ice that have built up since the last defrost cycle. If you are following me closely then your probably thinking, “But if it is running in cooling mode, doesn’t that mean it is cooling the house down?” Hey! You’re pretty smart! That’s a good question. Is that what really will happen during the 3 to 5 minutes of the defrost cycle?

That’s where we will pick up the next lesson, so stay tuned for more!

Do you need help right away with the central heating or cooling system in your house? 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 have a 100% happiness guarantee.

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