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What is a Heat Pump?

August 11, 2022 | Blog

When considering how to maintain indoor temperatures, homeowners have the option of choosing either an AC or a heat pump. The latter option is extremely energy-efficient; transferring heat indoors and outdoors.

Wondering whether heat pump installation is for you? Bob’s Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help! All necessary heat pump information, including their components and how they work, is down below.

What’s A Heat Pump?

While furnaces create heat that’s distributed throughout a home, heat pumps absorb outdoor heat and transfer it indoors. Air source heat pumps are, like ACs, comprised of outdoor and indoor units.

The Unit

A heat pump outdoor unit is comprised of a coil and fan. Depending on whether the device is in cooling or heating mode, the coil will act as a condenser or evaporator, respectively. To allow for heat exchange, the fan blows outside air over the coil.

The indoor unit consists of the same components. However, the coils work in reverse: acting as an evaporator when cooling and a condenser when heating. The fan’s job is moving air across the coil and throughout a home’s ducts.


Responsible for absorbing and rejecting heat circulating throughout the pump, refrigerant is pressurized and moved by the compressor. Want the refrigerant to flow in the opposite direction? The reversing valve is made for this, easily reversing the refrigerant when necessary. To keep everything running properly, an expansion valve is used to regulate the refrigerant flow, allowing for reduced pressure and temperature.

Different Modes


When the indoor coil functions as the evaporator, the liquid refrigerant is pumped through the expansion valve. Indoor air is blown across the coils and cool air moves throughout the ducts. Simultaneously, the refrigerant absorbs heat energy and becomes gas.

From there, the refrigerant passes through and is pressurized and heated by the compressor. Afterward, the refrigerant moves to the outdoor unit’s coils, currently serving as condensers, with the fan responsible for moving the outside air. Since outdoor air is cooler than hot, compressed gas, the refrigerant, now cooling, returns to its liquid state.

Now in its original state, the refrigerant is pumped to the indoor unit’s expansion valve, significantly lowering both temperature and pressure. Once completed, the system is ready to repeat the process.


During the heating process, heat pumps operate just as they do when cooling. However, there are some differences: the flow of refrigerant is backward, the outside coil is the evaporator and the indoor coil is the condenser. During these opposite workings, outside air is the heating source and heat energy is released indoors.

In the outdoor unit, liquid refrigerant absorbs heat energy and is turned into a cold gas, which is then pressurized and turned hot. Cooled as air passes into the indoor unit, the gas heats the air and condenses into a warm liquid. Upon entering the outdoor unit, the liquid is relieved of any pressure, turning cold again and finishing the cycle.

Positives And Negatives

Heat pumps are highly energy-efficient when operating. This means it is effectively reducing carbon emissions and increasing long-term savings. Relying on electricity, they don’t need burning fuel to function, are safe to operate and require less maintenance than combustion-based systems. Once a year, homeowners should check on their heat pump. Every three-five years, a professional’s help should be requested so they can observe the system to see if a heat pump repair is necessary. The life span of heat pumps, on average, is 13-15 years.

Though there are a lot of positives when it comes to heat pumps, there are also some negatives to consider. Firstly, heat pump installation requires a high upfront cost. However, the operating costs can lead to long-term savings on energy bills and reduced carbon emissions. The installation process is also difficult as heat movement, local geology and the heating and cooling requirements of households have to be understood. The process will also require significant work and disruption to homes and gardens.

Additionally, since some fluids refrigerants, are questionable and raise environmental concerns, consider biodegradable liquids. Cold water problems can also damage systems, leading to a decrease in efficiency in such conditions. Though it’s implied that it’s difficult for heat pumps to be carbon neutral, they have a relatively high Coefficient of Performance. This means that, as outdoor temperatures drop the system becomes more efficient.

Berwick Heat Pump Solutions

A lot goes into heat pumps, making them seem rather complicated. However, while this might be true, the positives out-way the negatives. These energy-efficient, non-combustion-based systems, are an amazing option for both you and the environment. Think a heat pump might be right for you? Contact Bob’s Heating & Air Conditioning today to get a second opinion and get the answers you need.

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