How Does a Heat Pump Resemble a Refrigeration System?

How Does a Heat Pump Resemble a Refrigeration System

Many people wonder if they should go for a heat pump or a refrigeration system in their homes and offices. This shouldn’t be so difficult. So, how does a heat pump resemble a refrigeration system? A heat pump resembles a refrigeration system in various ways – they both possess indoor fans, refrigerants, compressors, and copper coils. They also remove heat from the inside air, making the room cooler.

Before we go into the similarities between heat pumps and refrigeration systems, let’s take a look at how both systems work. At the end of this article, you’ll be able to make a better decision on what machine you need in your home.

What is a Heat Pump?

The heat pump technology might seem like a new deal to you when you are building or renovating your house. It is an appliance that can provide both heating and cooling functions to your home. Using mechanical energy, the heat pump takes heat from the air and transfers it either inside or outside depending on whether you’re in the cold or hot season.

People who live in very cold areas may not be familiar with heat pumps. This is because the old heat pumps do not generate enough heat from the environment to warm the room. But now, new heat pumps with high efficiency been produced.

How a Heat Pump Works

Everyone has air conditioners in their homes and offices. You must have noticed how the air conditioner works. The air conditioner absorbs hot air from the insides of your room and moves it outside. Similarly, the heat pump moves the hot air outside. But, it is more advanced than the air conditioner because it can also work in the reverse direction.

The way the heat pump works depends on the weather. In the winter, it provides heat to your home by removing heat from the air outside and moving it inside. While in the summer, it takes it from the inside to outside, thus cooling your home.

So, you may be wondering how it is possible for heat to be removed from the cold weather outside.  It is very possible because heat energy is present in every temperature and weather condition. But, the heat pump is more efficient in environments with moderate temperatures or milder climates. This means if it is snowing outside your house, your heat pump may not do so much to warm up your room.

The refrigerant is passed through the condensation and evaporation cycle. The compressor is responsible for pumping heat through the evaporator and condenser coils. At low pressure, the refrigerant is evaporated in one coil and then absorbs heat from the surroundings. Afterward, the refrigerant moves to the other coil where it condenses at high pressure. Heat is then released to the environment.

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Types of Heat Pumps

While the heat pump systems explained here are air source heat pumps, there are other types of heat pump systems such as water source heat pumps that extract heat from water sources (e.g. pipes), and geothermal heat pumps that extract heat from underneath the earth.

So let’s get into the main types of air source heat pump:

  1. Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Heat Pumps:

This is a more recent technology that is more energy-efficient, makes less noise, and works well in various environments. One of the major advantages of VRF heat pumps is that they can carry out multiple functions. What does this mean? The VRF heat pumps can heat and cool different areas at a time.

  1. Split System Heat Pump

The split system heat pump is like the regular central air unit which has the inner and outer units as its two main parts. The evaporator coils in this heat pump absorb the heat. The heat absorbed is released in both outside and inside units with the aid of the condenser coils.

As opposed to the split system air conditioner which only transfers heat in one direction, the split system air pump can transfer both hot and cool air in both directions.

  1. Rooftop unit (Packaged Heat Pump):

The packaged heat pump also has both an inner and outer unit. It is not so different from the split system heat pumps. The main difference is that all the coils in the rooftop unit are located in a single unit. This is why they are referred to as packaged heat pumps.

The ductwork that goes through the roof and walls of your house is responsible for getting either hot or cool air from the packaged heat pump into your house. Many people who go for the rooftop unit do so because they take less space, and they are less expensive to install.

  1. Ductless heat pumps:

Although most heat pumps use ducts to transfer air into the house, it may not be possible in some situations. In cases where you want to renovate an old house or add heating and cooling to a small space (like a garage), ducted heat pumps may not be feasible.

This type of heat pump needs refrigerant lines and coil/fan units to function. The heat passes through the refrigerant lines and then goes to the coil or fan unit which has been installed in the ceiling or wall. Without these units installed in the rooms where you want them, it won’t function.

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How Does a Heat Pump Resemble a Refrigeration System — What is a Refrigeration System?

Everyone is familiar with the refrigeration system. We use it every day in our homes and everywhere we go. They can be found in appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators.

A refrigeration system is a machine that is used to remove heat from an area. The refrigeration system is based on a refrigeration cycle that follows a principle which states that the expansion of a liquid into gas extracts heat from the surroundings.

How Does a Refrigeration System Work?

To remove unwanted heat from a particular place, the refrigeration system makes use of a refrigerant. The system is a closed system. What does this mean?

The refrigeration system which has no outlets pumps out the refrigerant. An open system would give rise to leakages. This would mean you have to use the refrigerant only once. But with the closed refrigeration system, the refrigerant used is recycled.

The refrigeration makes use of a metering device that controls refrigerant flow and a compressor which compresses the vapor. It also has two different pressures – the evaporating (low) pressure, and the condensing (high) pressure.

The metering device which could be a capillary tube or a thermal expansion valve is the starting point of a refrigeration cycle. The metering device is responsible for controlling the flow of refrigerant through the cooling coil or evaporator.

The refrigerant moves from the metering device to the evaporator. Then, the device absorbs the heat from the surrounding. This heat causes the refrigerant to evaporate, changing it to vapor.

So, the vapor goes to the compressor. Then, the air flows to the condenser. The condenser releases the heat from the air absorbed at the beginning. When this happens, the refrigerant vapor returns to the liquid state.

The liquid refrigerant moves back to the metering device and the cycle continues. This cycle removes hot air from rooms, giving rise to a cooler environment. This is even every day when using your air conditioners.

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How Does a Heat Pump Resemble a Refrigeration System?

A heat pump resembles a refrigeration system in so many ways. Basically, they’re the same machine. The refrigeration process removes heat and moisture from the insides of the room to the outside, thus cooling your room in the process in both the refrigeration system and heat pumps.

Moreover, both devices release the heat energy to the outside air making use of parts such as compressors, copper coils, fans, and refrigerants. The fans circulate the cool air in your room through ducts. A condensate collection pan collects moisture removed from the air drips in both devices

Check out this video to learn more:


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Difference Between Heat Pump and Refrigeration System

The heat pump is superior to the refrigeration system. This is because, with the heat pump, you get both the cooling and heating functions. The reversing valve is the main difference between the heat pump and the refrigeration system. The reversing valve switches the refrigerant flow in the heat pump.

So, if it was going from evaporator to condenser before, it will change direction in the opposite way, and vice verse. This makes it very beneficial to homeowners. However, in extremely cold environments, the heat pump may find it difficult to extract enough heat from the cold surroundings. In this case, you may need another device that generates heat in your home.

Moreover, unlike the refrigeration system, the closed-loop also blows hot air in your home. Most heat pumps also make use of a ductless mini-split system which helps distribute the hot or cold air through multiple units in your home instead of through ducts used in refrigeration systems such as air conditioners.

Cost: The cost of purchasing a heat pump is a bit higher than refrigeration systems. But, you would spend more money on installing the heat pumps. Also, expect to spend extra money to service your heat pumps regularly. Heat pumps have a shorter lifespan because they carry out extra functions.

How Do You Determine The Best Option For You?

The most important factor that will help you decide on the HVAC device to choose is the climate of your area. If the temperature of your area is around 40-degrees and below, you shouldn’t use heat pumps. As said above, it is difficult for heat pumps to absorb enough heat from cold environments. As a result, they use much more energy and this costs you more money.


When getting a new house or renovating your home, you may need to install one of these devices in your home. Before you purchase one of the devices, you have to know how the heat pump resembles a refrigeration system. This will help you make the best decision in the market.

The heat pump is very similar to the refrigeration system. They differ mainly in the ability of heat pumps to transfer heat into the house. This is due to the reversible valve which allows the refrigerant to flow in the opposite direction.

Now that you know how the heat pump and a refrigeration system resemble each other, you can make a decision on which of them fits your home.

However, while you are at it, don’t forget to take the climate and your budget into consideration.


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