What Is a Heat Pump?

Heat Pump is a piece of equipment that pumps heat—from the air or ground into your home to heat it, or from the house into the outside air to cool it. It uses the same technology as a refrigerator or air conditioner. Like those systems, heat pumps contain piping that carries a volatile fluid around in a circuit and a compressor that compresses or sheds the fluid to change it from liquid into vapor and back again. They also have two sets of heat exchangers, one indoors and the other outdoors, with a fan that blows air over these coils to facilitate the transfer.

Because they do not produce their own heat, heat pumps use less electricity than traditional furnaces and baseboard heaters. That makes them very efficient. In fact, they typically deliver four times the amount of heat for every kilowatt of electricity they consume.

That translates to lower utility bills for you and fewer fossil fuels burned for the planet. The efficiency of heat pumps is determined by a number called the coefficient of performance, or COP, which depends on how much heat you need and where it’s coming from. It’s important that the system be correctly sized, so it delivers just the right amount of energy. A Carrier specialist can perform tests on your home to find the best solution for your comfort and energy needs.

There’s more available heat in a moderate climate, so your unit won’t have to work as hard to extract it. Colder climates, however, make it more difficult to get the heat you need. In that case, supplemental heating—such as an oil burner or gas furnace—is often necessary to help the heat pump operate at its most efficient level.

The most common problems associated with heat pumps are low airflow (as indicated by a lowered airflow indicator on your thermostat), temperature problems, using the wrong refrigerant charge and noise issues such as rattles or squeaks. If you are experiencing any of these problems, it’s important to contact your local Carrier dealer as soon as possible.

An all-electric heat pump can deliver exceptional comfort and savings, especially with ENERGY STAR® qualified units that offer even greater efficiency and a lower carbon footprint. These systems can also be used in combination with a natural-gas boiler for backup heating when needed.

Ductless heat pumps are another easy way to reduce your energy costs. These systems connect an outdoor unit to a series of indoor air handlers or “heads” throughout your home, replacing the need for ductwork to distribute warm and cool air. They can be a smart alternative to traditional ductwork in new construction homes or as an addition to existing ducts.

Heat Pump systems are available in a wide range of sizes, from single-room mini-splits to whole-house models that can replace your current furnace and air conditioner. The smaller models, known as ductless mini-splits, have a wall-mounted indoor air handler that houses a fan and a condenser coil, while larger whole-house units have a compact outdoor unit that connects to one or more air handler “heads” installed high on the walls in each room of your home.