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What's the function of a heat pipe in an air conditioning air handler?
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Boosts Removal Of Moisture And Requires No Energy Source
A heat pipe is a sealed tubing system that transfers heat extremely efficiently from one end of it to the other through a liquid-to-gas process. Heat pipes recover heat from the air exhaust of heating systems, miniature ones cool laptop computers, and they are also used to improve the dehumidification of an air conditioning system.
A heat pipe system wraps around the evaporator coil in an air handler. It absorbs heat from incoming air, which delivers cooler air to the evaporator coils and enables it to extract more humidity from the air flow that passes through it. The back half of the heat pipe at the other side of the evaporator coils releases the heat back into the air. It does not affect the ability of the a/c system to cool the air, but “pre-chilling” of incoming air boosts removal of moisture from the air. The heat transfer cycle is automatic, zero-sum, recycles repeatedly, and does not require an energy source. Pretty amazing!
The diagram below shows the sequence of the flow from right to left. It’s from Heat Pipe Technology, Inc., a leading manufacturer of heat pipe products that is now a division of Berkshire Hathaway.
Not As Popular As Years Ago
We don’t see too many heat pipe installations in a/c systems anymore. “Years ago they were an add-on for increasing the efficiency of an air conditioner,” according to Bryan Bounds, of Bounds Heating and Air, in Newberry, Florida. “But new systems, and especially the inverter based ones, have the increased efficiency built-in. Also, the thermostats of new systems monitor and respond to humidity changes.” Inverter systems run continuously, adjusting their speed to temperature requirements and giving a homeowner continuous humidity control.
So, while heat pipes are a unique technology with multiple uses— including in spacecraft—it is not as popular nowadays for residential air conditioning systems as it once was.
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To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these other blog posts:
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