Many times, customers will ask why a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling while an air conditioner can’t. There’s a simple answer to this: a component called a reversing valve; heat pumps have them and air conditioners don’t. It may seem a little crazy that this one component can make such a big difference, but understanding what the reversing valve does can help make it clear. First, let’s take a quick look at how a heat pump works.

How a Heat Pump Works

Heat pumps do not generate either heating or cooling; instead, they transfer heat from one location to another, with the help of refrigerant. During the winter months, heat pumps absorb the heat in the surrounding air, concentrate it, and distribute it to your home’s living spaces. In the summer months, heat pumps absorb the heat in your home and transfer it outside. However, it is the reversing valve that allows the heat pump to change from cooling to heating and back.

The Reversing Valve

The reversing valve is a medium-sized, cylindrical metal component with 3 smaller tube-like valves on one side and a single tube-like valve on the other; there is also a small electrical component called a solenoid on top of it. Inside the reversing valve is a sliding mechanism that moves back and forth, according to the mode the valve is in (heating or cooling). As the homeowner, all you have to do to change modes is press a button on your dual-mode thermostat. When the thermostat cues the heat pump to change modes, the solenoid gives the sliding mechanism a little push and the refrigerant inside the valve does the rest. This action, in which the directional flow of the refrigerant is changed, is what physically changes the mode of a heat pump and for your system.

“Stuck” Reversing Valve

One of the more common problems with the reversing valve is that it can get stuck in a mode or even between modes. When the valve is stuck, your heat pump can’t work properly and repair is required. If the reversing valve is stuck due to a faulty solenoid, the solenoid can be replaced; however, if there is a refrigerant leak or other issue, the reversing valve will need to be replaced.

Bi-annual maintenance helps keep your heat pump in North Potomac in great shape. If it’s been more than 6 months since your last heat pump maintenance appointment, or you are experiencing problems with your heat pump, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing today.