What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is simply a device that absorbs heat from one environment and deposits it in another. A refrigerator is a common example of heat pump technology — heat is absorbed from the inside of your fridge and deposited into the air of your kitchen. However, heat pumps for residential use are different in an important way from what you’ll find in your fridge — they’re reversible. This means they can be used to cool your home in the summer and heat your home in the winter.

How does a heat pump work?

A heat pump consists of four parts — an evaporator coil, a condenser coil, a compressor, and a valve. The evaporator coil is the side where heat is absorbed, and the condenser coil is where heat is released. Depending on the climate and the needs of the individual homeowner, the coil outside the house may be buried or above ground, and the system may use water or air to disperse or collect heat from the home.

Diagram of a heat pump

During the summer, the interior coil serves as the evaporator side, while the exterior coil serves as the condenser side. That way, heat from your home is carried out and dispersed into the environment. When winter comes around, the expansion valve can be reversed. Then the interior coil becomes the condenser side and the exterior coil becomes the evaporator side, drawing heat from the outside environment into the home.

What are the costs and benefits of a heat pump?

The biggest reason you don’t see more residential heat pumps is the initial cost. However, they are much more efficient than combustion heaters, so over time they will pay for themselves. Furthermore, since they don’t rely on burning fuel to produce heat, they are cleaner, safer, and pollute less than combustion heaters.

Another issue that comes up sometimes with heat pumps is capacity. Depending on the system, the home, and the climate, a heat pump may need to be supplemented by other forms of heating and AC to achieve the desired interior temperature.

Still not sure if a heat pump is the right choice for you? Ready to get a quote? Give the pros at Polar HVAC a call. They’ve got the tools and wisdom to keep you cool in the summer, keep you warm in the winter, and save you money year round!