The Homeowner’s Guide to Heat Pumps

The Homeowner’s Guide to Heat Pumps

Posted by Tom's Mechanical

As consumers have become more concerned with energy efficiency, heat pumps have soared in popularity due to their money-saving efficiency.

However, most consumers are still in the dark when it comes to the details behind heat pumps. Although they are highly efficient, there are several details to take into consideration as you consider adding a heat pump to your home's HVAC setup.

Is a Heat Pump the Right Choice for You?

Before you spend too much time researching heat pumps, it's important for you to be sure that a heat pump is right for your home and climate.


First, if you live in an especially cold climate, a heat pump may not be your best choice. Since standard heat pumps move hot air rather than generate it, extreme outdoor temperatures, especially cold, can lower their efficiency significantly, causing your less efficient conventional gas or electric system to kick in. The only solution to this problem is to pursue installation of a more expensive geothermal system.

It's also important to consider your home's existing HVAC ducts. Certain heat pumps require larger ducts, meaning you'll have to install new ductwork in order to create a functional system.

Types of Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps are the most common type on the market. They work by moving hot air between the outdoors and the interior of your home, pushing out hot air in the summer and drawing it in during the winter.

For homeowners living in regions with moderate seasons, air-source pumps can lower energy use by up to 40%. However, if your area experiences severe winters, an air-source pump isn't your best option.

Ductless Mini-split
Many older homes lack insulated ductwork. For these homes, there are ductless heat pump systems called mini-splits. Although they are somewhat more expensive, these systems provide a viable option for homeowners who can't, or wish not to, install additional ductwork.

Geothermal heat pumps are ideal for those who live in climates with extreme seasonal temperatures. By using constant sources of ambient heat underground, geothermal systems can deliver high efficiency in extreme climates.


Despite being more costly to install, homeowners report high levels of satisfaction and overall efficiency from geothermal systems.

A Note on Refrigerants

All heat pumps utilize a chemical refrigerant. As many are already aware, the refrigerant known as freon, or R22, is thought to be very harmful for the environment, causing ozone depletion that allows harmful UV rays through the earth's atmosphere.

Even though this refrigerant will be phased out of use by 2020, some units still make use of it. Environmental concerns aside, units designed to use R22 are often unable to use modern, more environmentally friendly refrigerants, meaning they aren’t ideal for a new installation. So be sure to find out what type of refrigerant each unit uses before making a buying decision.

This post has only scratched the surface of what can be said on heat pumps. Watch out for more in-depth posts on this topic in the coming weeks!

Photo Credits:

1. Photo by Niklas Morberg

2. Photo via Flickr