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Do Heat Pumps Use Refrigerant?


Posted by Spencer | June 20, 2023 | Reading Time:

do heat pumps use refrigerant

Is your heating or cooling unit monkeying around? Treat your dysfunctional system with five-star services when you contact us for maintenance, repairs, or replacements!

Heat pumps are exceptional for creating an ideal indoor climate, especially since a heat pump doubles for heating and cooling, making your home comfortable year-round. That means instead of installing an AC unit that goes dormant during the winter and a furnace or boiler that’s obsolete during the summer, installing a heat pump takes up less space while handling both jobs. But do heat pumps use refrigerant?

You may have many questions, especially if you’re considering heat pump installation services in Phoenix, AZ, for the first time. If you’re wondering how a heat pump works and differs from traditional systems or want to know whether all heat pumps use the same equipment, we’re here to help. Trust over 20 years of experience for the answers and services you need. 

How Do Cooling Units Use Refrigerant?

All cooling units, from refrigerators and freezers to air conditioners and heat pumps, use refrigerant. Refrigerant is a working fluid that absorbs and releases heat as it toggles between a high-pressure liquid and low-pressure gas, moving heat and humidity to where it needs to be. 

According to the laws of thermodynamics, diffusion occurs when heat energy moves from a high-concentrated to a low-concentrated area. So, for diffusion to occur within your cooling unit, AC units and heat pumps turn refrigerant into a freezing liquid by compressing it in the compressor. Then, the refrigerant moves into an evaporator coil, exposing itself to a high concentration of indoor heat. 

Your HVAC blower moves indoor heat into the air handlers so the colder refrigerant absorbs it and evaporates into a gas. The refrigerant then flows back into the condenser coil to release the warm air outdoors. It’ll continue this cycle, leaving only cool air inside. 

Does Refrigerant Act Differently in a Heat Pump Than in an AC Unit?

Heat pumps work by using a refrigerant to extract heat from one area and disperse it in another (like when moving heat from inside to outside during the summer). However, air conditioners pull heat and moisture, cooling the warm air before redistributing it indoors. Because AC units generate cool air rather than transfer heat for cooling, they use more electricity and increase your carbon footprint. 

But do heat pumps use refrigerant in any other way? Unlike air conditioners, heat pumps have a reverse valve that allows heat transfer to switch directions, meaning your unit can heat indoor air during the winter, similar to how it cools in summer. Winter nights in desert climates get colder than one might think, so having a working heater is necessary for living in Phoenix.

The reverse valve changes where the refrigerant is hot or cold within your system. So, when the refrigerant circulates within the condenser unit, it’s colder than outdoor air, sucking in the warm air rather than releasing it. The refrigerant then evaporates and travels to the indoor unit to release the warm air inside your home. 

Does Your Heat Pump Rely on Freon?

While all heat pumps rely heavily on refrigerant to move warm air in all seasons, the kind of refrigerant they use drastically differs depending on your system type. Since heat pumps usually last 15 years with proper care, you probably have one that a technician installed before 2010, meaning there’s a good chance yours runs on R-22 Freon or R-410A Puron.

Although once popular, these refrigerant types had a negative environmental impact because of their chemical makeup of hydrochlorofluorocarbons. Since January 1, 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency made installing units with these components illegal to reduce harmful gases from releasing into the ozone layer. But manufacturers still made these refrigerants and shipped them to the states.

If you’re wondering, “Do heat pumps use refrigerant that’s banned?” it took ten years to phase out R-22 Freon, while the EPA started phasing out Puron in 2020. So, if your unit runs on either, switch your heat pump before manufacturers discontinue the parts you’ll need for a repair. 

For Over 20 Years of Experience!

Since 1999, our five-star, BBB-accredited team has offered an upfront guarantee and customer satisfaction that allows us to satisfy our one goal of making you comfortable. Our professional team of experienced technicians provides timely and fair services 24/7, so call 480-360-5278 whether you need a heat pump repair, replacement, or maintenance in Phoenix, AZ. Rainforest Plumbing & Air will answer all questions, including “Do heat pumps use refrigerant?” and more!

Author Bio:
Ike Tippetts

He founded the company and soon found himself answering phones and dispatching team members around the clock! Rainforest Plumbing & Air has come a long way since they started in 1999 as a two-truck operation. 

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