What is a Heat Pump System? a Complete Explanation

What is a Heat Pump System? a Complete Explanation

Have you given heat pumps some thought? A heat pump’s suitability for your home can be determined by having a basic understanding of what it is and how it operates.

There is no better time than the present to learn more about heat pumps if you don’t already know them. Federal incentives start to take effect in 2023 to ease the financial burden of installing and buying one. The phase-out of gas furnaces will start in California in 2030.

A heat pump moves heat from one location to another rather than producing it. In a nation that values the environment, this appliance has a promising future. Continue reading for more details if heat pump systems are of interest to you.

Read More: Is a Heat Pump System Worth It? Pros and Cons

What is a Heat Pump System?

A heat pump is a device that uses electricity to move heat from the outside to the inside and vice versa.

Reversing valves are a common feature of heat pumps, enabling them to double as air conditioners. The main working components are a fan to move air throughout the living area and a compressor that moves a refrigerant through a network of copper coils.

The two units in a heat pump system are typically located indoors and outdoors, and they are connected by copper tubing that runs through the building’s wall. Most of the time, the compressor is outside.

What is a Heat Pump System? a Complete Explanation


  • ASHPs are efficient
  • ASHPs usually help you save on your overall utility bills
  • ASHPs have some health and wellness benefits
  • ASHPs combine heating and cooling systems into one
  • ASHPs let you heat and cool your home in zones


  • ASHPs can cost more upfront than other conventional HVAC technologies
  • Increased electric bills
  • ASHPs are susceptible to power outages

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

The refrigeration system consists of two coils (condenser and evaporator) separated by an expansion valve through which a refrigerant continuously circulates. The compressor pressurizes the refrigerant in the condenser coil so that it can condense into a liquid. The condenser coil is always hot because of the heat that is released during this process.

At the coil’s end, an expansion valve comes into contact with the pressurized liquid. Once there is sufficient pressure, the valve opens and sprays the refrigerant into the evaporator coils, where the sudden pressure drop transforms it into a vapor.

The surrounding medium (air, soil, or water) is used as a source of energy for vaporization. This returns to the condenser coil where it will be converted to heat when the refrigerant is re-pressurized. Read More: How Do Heat Pump Systems Work?

Types of Heat Pump Systems

Ground-source and air-source heat pumps are the two most prevalent types of heat pumps.

What is a Heat Pump System? a Complete Explanation

The heat source is the primary distinction between an air-source pump and a ground-source (or geothermal) pump. With the help of an internal piping system and a unit located outside the house, air-source pumps can move heat from the outside air inside the house. Homeowners can also get hot water from this kind of heat pump by combining it with an air-source hot water heat pump.

The heat from the ground is collected and transferred using ground-source heat pumps, which use a network of buried looped pipes. Larger properties with enough room to bury the pipes in the ground are better suited for these types of pumps. Ground-source pumps are also more effective in the winter because they draw from consistent thermal energy underneath the ground.

The most efficient heat pump for a person’s home depends on the heat pump’s intended use, energy consumption rate, noise level, installation and maintenance costs, and the size of the property.

Buying a Heat Pump

The British Thermal Unit (Btu) heat output and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) are the two most crucial specs to take into account. Tons, which equal 12,000 Btus, are a common unit of measurement for heat output.

There are two general guidelines for heat pump sizing. One is to heat a floor area with 30 Btus per square foot. Another method is to calculate the required number of tons by dividing the total floor area by 500. The right amount of heat must be produced by a unit, so it’s critical for an HVAC contractor to size a unit appropriately for a specific home.

SEER ratings range from 13 (low efficiency) to 21 or 22 (high efficiency). A unit with a high SEER rating consumes less electricity, but it has more moving parts and is more expensive to buy and maintain.

In reality, a 16 SEER system should be sufficient in temperate climates. Select a higher SEER to improve performance in a colder climate or reduce power consumption. By dividing the heat output in Btus by the SEER, you can determine how much energy a specific unit consumes and how much it costs on a monthly basis. The answer will be provided in watts per hour. The local electricity rate should then be added to that.

Installing a Heat Pump

Mini-split appliances like the Mr. Cool DIY that homeowners can install. Hiring a qualified HVAC technician is a good idea if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. Read More: How to Install a Heat Pump System?

What is a Heat Pump System? a Complete Explanation

The outdoor unit is mounted on a concrete pad or footers to keep it high and dry. On the inside of an air handler that is connected to the ductwork of the building, one or more indoor units are mounted to the walls. Electrical and refrigeration wires that pass through the wall are then used to link the two units.

A drainage tube is included for condensate that drips from the indoor coil during cold weather because the majority of heat pumps also serve as air conditioners.

Heat Pump Maintenance

The indoor and outdoor units both require regular maintenance, such as changing the air filters and cleaning the coils of dust. The outdoor unit must be kept free of snow, leaves, and other debris so air can circulate.

You may have to occasionally de-ice the evaporator coil in the outdoor unit in the winter and the indoor unit in the summer. Instead of attempting to scrape the ice off and potentially damaging the coil, simply turn off the power and let it melt.

When to Call a Professional?

If your heat pump is giving you trouble, always give a pro a call.

A homeowner might not always be able to see or diagnose a problem that develops inside piping, below the surface, or inside a unit. A specialist who is familiar with the system from top to bottom must be contacted to assist in identifying the problem. Once located, they will be able to offer a solution and might also have suggestions for how to keep it from happening again in the future.

If the air isn’t flowing steadily, the temperature isn’t rising, cool air is releasing instead of heat, or the system isn’t working correctly, it’s time to call a professional. Ask questions and get assistance if you need it.

Conclusion: What is a Heat Pump System?

A heat pump simply transfers heat from one location to another. It is distinct from other HVAC systems because it makes use of energy to move heat from the outside to the inside. To raise the air’s temperature, it undergoes a process of compression and exchange, and to lower it, it undergoes the opposite process.

An air or ground source heat pump might be a good option if you currently heat your home with oil, electricity, liquid gas, or solid fuels in order to lessen your carbon footprint and lower your energy costs. Heat pumps can effectively heat or cool your home in any climate because they transfer heat rather than produce it.


Is a Heat Pump Better Than AC?

Heat pumps are more energy efficient since they pump out more cool and warm air by volume than the energy it takes to run them. The only maintenance needed for heat pumps is twice a year, which is very little.

What is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and Central Air?

Both methods of cooling your home transfer or pump heat from the inside to the outside. The biggest difference between the two is that central air conditioning systems do not reverse their direction and transfer heat from outside your home. These appliances generate heat using a furnace.

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