What Is A Heat Pump & How Does It Work?

A heat pump is part of your home’s heating and cooling system that looks like an air conditioning unit, but provides the functions of both a heating and air conditioning system. For homes without access to natural gas, a heat pump is usually an efficient option to heat and cool your home. The newest heat pumps on the market are not only more efficient than the heat pumps of days gone by, they also perform better in extreme temperatures, so no more worries when the outside temperature drops below freezing.

How It Works

Most heat pumps are air to air, which means they pump air from outside into your home to an outdoor unit and an indoor air handler, where it is warmed or cooled. In the winter, cold air from outside is converted to warm air and in the summer, outside air is cooled off and circulated throughout your home. Other types of heat pumps are geothermal and water source.

Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pumps

While most heat pumps operate within your air duct system, those in older homes without a duct system can still utilize a heat pump for heating and cooling. Ductless mini-split heat pumps can connect to as many as four or five air handlers inside the home, which are mounted to the walls of the room. The newest models can be mounted in an unobtrusive manner, sometimes cleverly disguised to look like artwork.

Measures of Efficiency

A heat pump’s energy efficiency is described by its SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). Currently, SEER ratings range from 14 to 20 and high efficiency heat pumps have an HSPF of 9 or more. With both measures, the higher the number, the more efficient, and the more money you could potentially save on your monthly energy bills. While you may spend more up front for a high efficiency system, the savings over the 10-20 year lifespan of the system will be worth it.


Heat pumps are generally very reliable. But there are a variety of issues that could cause your heat pump to not perform as well as it should. Keep an eye out for these symptoms of potential problems.

  • Dirty or clogged air filters or vents. Replacing your filter monthly, or according to manufacturer guidelines, is essential to keep your heat pump operating at peak performance. Make sure to regularly clear all leaves and other clutter from around your outdoor unit. Also, be sure to clean the vents inside your home and make sure the registers are free of dust and debris.
  • Ice build-up. A thin layer of frost or light ice on your heat pump during the winter months is normal; your heat pump will periodically defrost itself. But if there is a thick layer of ice on the top or the coils are encased in ice, this could be a sign that your heat pump is not defrosting as it should. If left untouched, your system could be damaged beyond repair. Remove any debris or snow from the unit’s surface and make sure that water isn’t dripping onto the unit from your gutters. Try using water from a hose to melt the ice. If that doesn’t work, schedule service online.
  • Compressor failure. In this situation, the compressor will often be loud and run more than usual. You’ll hear it running, but the temperature in your home won’t reach the setting on your thermostat. You will also notice an increase in your bills. Pay attention to how your heat pump is running and if you notice anything unusual, call for service.
  • Refrigerant leaks. If your heat pump is taking longer than usual to achieve the desired temperature, running in short bursts (cycling for short periods of time, stopping, and starting again quickly) or making a hissing sound, you may have a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant level is low, the compressor could become damaged, which would require a full heat pump replacement. If you notice signs of a refrigerant leak, call for service ASAP.

BGE HOME Energy & Comfort Consultants can help you find the best heat pump for your home and budget. Contact us for a free estimate. Should you need a heat pump repair, our licensed and certified technicians can provide prompt, professional service on all major brands.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019 at 9:07 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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