Russell & Abbott Blog: Archive for the ‘Heat Pumps’ Category

Olive Explains the Reversing Valve, A Heat Pump’s Secret Trick!

Monday, February 8th, 2021
cold-and-hot-homes

One of the topics I enjoy writing about the most is heat pumps. This is because heat pumps can pull a nifty trick: provide both heating and cooling to a home. And, like the best magic tricks (such as pulling a poodle out of a hat), once you know the secret behind it, it feels both obvious and sorta genius that you have to admire the folks who came up with it. I’d love to take credit, but that would be dishonest and even counting in dog years I can’t stretch my lifetime back that far to the late 1940s. (The actual inventor was Robert C. Webber. Yep, I know that much about HVAC.)

I could go on for a long time about the workings of heat pumps, but I want to look at one special part that makes all the difference—the part that is essential in allowing a heat pump to work as an air conditioner and a forced-air heater. It’s called the reversing valve.

The Reversing Valve Basics

A reversing valve is a metal component that looks like a copper bar with multiple copper tubes intersecting it. In technical terms, this device is an electro-magnetic four-way valve that guides the direction of the refrigerant that comes out of the compressor in the outdoor cabinet of the heat pump. 

Inside the valve is a slider; when it shifts position, it changes the direction of the incoming refrigerant to either move it first toward the indoor coil (which would put it in heating mode) or first to the outdoor coil (which would put it in cooling mode). The slider is moved by connecting electricity to the valve, energizing it. When the valve is de-energized, the slider returns to its first position. In most heat pumps, energized is cooling mode and de-energized is heating mode. 

When you manipulate the thermostat to adjust the heat pump, the thermostat will either send an electrical signal to the reversing valve or de-energize it, which determines which mode it will be in. 

Reversing Valve Troubles

There are plenty more details about the operation of the reversing valve, but I’m not going to go full “Electro-Engineer Olive” on you. What’s important for you to know is what can go wrong with the reversing valve that can lead to heat pump trouble. 

For one, the slider can become stuck, which is what you might expect from any mechanical device with enough wear. It can get stuck either in heating mode or cooling mode.

The other common trouble is when the thermostat loses its connection to the reversing valve. If the thermostat cannot energize the reversing valve, the heat pump will remain in its default de-energeized mode, which in most cases means a heat pump that’s stuck in cooling mode.

Fixing problems with a reversing valve is a standard repair for our great team. Sometimes we can repair the thermostat connection, and other times we’ll need to remove the reversing valve and replace it. No matter what type of heat pump repair in Maryville, TN you need to stay warm/stay cool, you can trust us to do the job.

Stay warm,

Olive

Russell & Abbott serves Blount, Knox, and Loudon Counties and surrounding areas. Just whistle and we’ll come running!

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A Few Things to Know Running Your Heat Pump in Winter

Monday, January 11th, 2021
dog-enjoying-cool-ice

Did you welcome a new addition to your house during the last year—a heat pump? Congratulations! We’re all fans of heat pumps around here, especially the Onyx models we install, which are ideally suited for the winters in East Tennessee. 

But if this is your first winter with a heat pump, there are a couple of things I’d like you to know. If you’ve already run it during the summer, you noticed it didn’t act any different than an AC. That’s just as it should be! But as you change the heat pump over to heating mode for winter, there are a few differences to get used to. After all, a heat pump isn’t a furnace and doesn’t provide heat the same way. Here’s “Olive’s List of Useful Things to Know” about your heat pump in winter.

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Can a Heat Pump Possibly Match a Furnace’s Performance?

Monday, December 28th, 2020
question-mark-badge

Let me first make an important statement about comparing a heat pump to a furnace: Home heating is not a race. When you’re searching for a heating system for home comfort, the goal isn’t to get the “swifter, faster, stronger” unit, the world-record holder, Earth’s Mightiest Heating System, the One Heating System to Rule Them All. No, you’re looking for … here it comes … the heating system that makes your family comfortable without wasting energy. Or, put even simpler, you’re looking for the heater that is the right match for your house

The question of a heat pump vs. furnace comes down to whether a correctly sized and installed heat pump can provide your house with energy-efficient comfort that would match a correctly sized and installed furnace. 

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It’s Summer, But My Heat Pump Thinks It’s Winter!

Monday, August 10th, 2020

thermometer-going-redLet’s say it’s a hot day here in East Tennessee. And it probably is, because I’m writing this in August, and I’m sweating through my paws, which makes it hard to handle the keys. Anyway, the temperatures outdoors are high and the air is humid, and all you want to do is retreat back to your home and set the thermostat to turn the heater on …

Wait, no, that’s not right. Why would you turn the heater on?

Unfortunately, you may find this is out of your control because you have a heat pump that has developed its own ideas about the time of the year. Instead of moving heat out of the house the way it should during summer, it’s moving heat inside as if it were winter. You’ve got a heat pump that’s trapped in heating mode—and that’s no fun for anybody. Especially not your dogs, who have to pant hard to overcome double heat.

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Olive Answers Some Basic Questions About Heat Pumps

Monday, June 17th, 2019

sun-and-snowflake-badgeI field plenty of questions from locals about the different types of air conditioning and heating systems we install and service. Most people have a basic idea of what HVAC equipment does, but not many of the specifics. I’ve had the fortune of lounging around on the couch of the Russell & Abbott offices for a good long while, and I’ve learned book-loads about HVAC equipment from listening to the techs. (I know it looks like I’m sleeping, but these big dog ears pick up almost everything.)

Today I want to talk about the heat pump, which causes plenty of confusion—starting with the name.

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Olive, How Is a Heat Pump Getting Heat Outside in Winter?

Monday, March 25th, 2019

graduate-oliveI love it when I get to put on my “Professor Olive” cap and discuss HVAC science. Now don’t worry—I’m not going to test you on this. And the science I’m going to talk about isn’t too tough. It’s just a bit tricky to approach at first because people aren’t used to hearing about “getting heat out of the cold.”

Okay, let’s jump into the question:

“How can a heat pump move heat into a home during a cold winter day?”

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Why You Should Keep Your Outside Heat Pump Clear in Winter

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

winter-weather-illustrationIt’s almost March—but keep in mind that most of March is still officially winter, and our weather often acts just like it. March has a notorious way of walking in through the front door all full of smiles, only then try to try to exit the house by battering down the back walls! I know, I’ve seen it happen: I work as an HVAC dog, and know exactly when the expert team here at Russell & Abbott gets busy during the year. March can get hectic with calls to fix broken heating systems.

(I should bring this up when I’m on the topic: even with spring just around the corner, never ignore a repair issue with your heater! Having the heater fixed right away helps ensure the problem doesn’t worsen, create a health hazard, or put you at risk of a heating system that won’t work at all the next time you really need it.)

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Help! My Heat Pump Is Smoking!

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Hey there everybody! How is 2017 shaping up for you so far? There’s one thing I can tell for certain about what’s coming up in these first few months of the New Year: cold weather. It’s a bit warm for winter right now, but we all know that won’t last.

And when the temperature drops, that’s when our hard-working team at MK Russell & Abbott starts putting in extra work to make sure that our great customers stay warm. We’re ready to come out and help repair your furnace or heat pump and make sure your family keeps cozy until the spring thaw.

There are a few heating emergencies, however, that actually aren’t emergencies. While our technicians are busy helping out with heating troubles, I’d like to give you some helpful info on something that looks like an emergency—but probably isn’t.

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Keeping the Outside of Your Heat Pump Clear This Winter

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Since I’m a dog and built lower to the ground than people are, there are a few things I tend to notice much faster than your average human. For example, on a recent walk I saw that the outdoor cabinet of a heat pump at a house had an alarming number of bushes growing around it. It’s the sort of thing that people who have their eye-lines up five or more feet in the air might not pick up as important. But it’s actually very important. The outdoor cabinet of a heat pump needs to have plenty of clearance around it in order to work properly, both in winter and summer. Let’s focus on winter right now.

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Here’s My Best Advice for Setting Your Thermostat This Winter

Monday, January 4th, 2016

Hello everyone, and welcome to 2016! I know you’ve probably already made your resolutions (I resolved to destroy my chew toys a bit slower this year) but I’d love to add one to your list at this late date. Don’t worry, it’s not a tough one to keep! It’s a resolution that you’ll pay special attention to how you set your home’s thermostat during the winter. Smart thermostat use means energy savings and lower heating bills… without needing to sacrifice comfort.

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