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Absorption Heat Pumps

Absorption Heat Pumps

Absorption heat pumps are essentially air-source heat pumps driven not by electricity, but by a heat source such as natural gas, propane, solar-heated water, or geothermal-heated water. Because natural gas is the most common heat source for absorption heat pumps, they are also referred to as gas-fired heat pumps. There are also absorption (or gas-fired) coolers available that work on the same principle. Unlike some absorption heat pumps, however, these are not reversible and cannot serve as a heat source.

Residential absorption heat pumps use an ammonia-water absorption cycle to provide heating and cooling. As in a standard heat pump, the refrigerant (in this case, ammonia) is condensed in one coil to release its heat; its pressure is then reduced and the refrigerant is evaporated to absorb heat. If the system absorbs heat from the interior of your home, it provides cooling; if it releases heat to the interior of your home, it provides heating.

The difference in absorption heat pumps is that the evaporated ammonia is not pumped up in pressure in a compressor, but is instead absorbed into water. A relatively low-power pump can then pump the solution up to a higher pressure. The problem then is removing the ammonia from the water, and that’s where the heat source comes in. The heat essentially boils the ammonia out of the water, starting the cycle again.

A key component in the units now on the market is generator absorber heat exchanger technology, or GAX, which boosts the efficiency of the unit by recovering the heat that is released when the ammonia is absorbed into the water. Other innovations include high-efficiency vapor separation, variable ammonia flow rates, and low-emissions, variable-capacity combustion of the natural gas.

Although mainly used in industrial or commercial settings, absorption coolers are now commercially available for large residential homes, and absorption heat pumps are under development. The 5-ton residential cooler systems currently available are only appropriate for homes on the scale of 4,000 square feet or more.

Absorption coolers and heat pumps usually only make sense in homes without an electricity source, but they have an added advantage in that they can make use of any heat source, including solar energy, geothermal hot water, or other heat sources. They are also amenable to zoned systems, in which different parts of the house are kept at different temperatures.

The efficiency of air-source absorption coolers and heat pumps is indicated by their coefficient of performance (COP). COP is the ratio of either heat removed (for cooling) or heat provided (for heating) in Btu per Btu of energy input.

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Crowther's HVAC did a total install for an older house for me 14 years ago. They are very good at what they do and are also the epitome of customer service. Any problems that I have had they took care of immediately at very reasonable prices. Add in that they are all really good people and you have the formula for a very successful business. Rereccomend them highly."

Harry Haynie

I selected Crowther to replace both of my HVAC systems and they did a great job. They went the extra mile to correct duct work, and add a vent in order to bring my homes HVAC systems up to the best performance.

Blake Auchmoody

We had a total duel system heat pump replacement. It was a pleasure working with CHAC. From the sales rep to the technicians responsible for the install. Very professional in their craftsmanship and ensuring everything was installed and working correctly. Very courteous and respectful of our property. We are new to the area and am glad we chose CHAC for our HVAC needs.

Steve Casey

For 25 years, Crowther has provided excellent customer service and support for our Carrier zoned heat pump. They are responsive, helpful and great to work with! We love their seasonal maintenance program and have had them complete some system redesign for our home renovation. All around a great team!

Jill Bessler

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