How Does A Heat Pump Work?

You may have heard of heat pumps but have also thought to yourself, “Hey self, how do those heat pumps work?” Well, you came to the right place. The basic concept is that heat pumps move heat from one place to another, rather than generating their own heat, like a furnace does (or removing heat from inside during summer, like an air conditioner does).

Let’s try and go back to what we learned in science class about the transfer of heat. Temperature wants to always reach equilibrium, so heat isn’t created or removed; it just moves from one place to another. And the ways you can heat and cool your home are just different methods for moving heat in or out. 

So how does it actually work? A heat pump includes an outdoor unit (looks and works just like your typical air conditioner) and an indoor unit. In cooling mode, the heat pump works just like an air conditioner: It takes the hot air in your house and blows it across the evaporator coil where the refrigerant sucks up the heat, , then transports itand discharges it outside through the condenser. If you were to measure the discharge air coming out of the top of your condenser, you’d find it somewhere around 10-30° F warmer than outside ambient air.

Now take that process and reverse it, and voilà! That’s how a heat pump works in heating mode. In this reverse situation, you take the flow of refrigerant, soak up heat energy from outside via the condenser, and discharge that heat into the house. There are a plethora of different heat pump options ranging from mini-splits, traditional air to air ducted units, all the way to ground source geothermal heat pumps (which prompts a different conversation, but we can talk more on that in a different blog).

Heat pumps, like air conditioners, vary in energy efficiency depending on their SEER/EER rating, outdoor ambient temperature, and what kind of blower they’re paired with. Depending on the application and efficiency, there are a lot of different options to explore, and as renewable energy becomes more widespread, so too will heat pumps.

Ready to explore your options? Call the heating and cooling experts at Baumann & DeGroot at 616-396-HEAT for a free consultation and estimate. We’ll figure out the best HVAC system for your home and budget, with no pushy salesmen.

Alex Baumann
Interacting with multiple customers on a daily basis, Alex assesses mechanical failures, repairs units, and plans for new builds. Customers are always his number one priority.