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Everything You Need to Know About Heat Pumps

Updated: April 2024

Nothing defines comfort better than having a warm or cool home, and the best way to achieve this is by using a heat pump. These units have high-power efficiency and operate with little electricity in comparison to the heat they produce, giving you value for your money.

Heat pumps are also a preference because they provide secure and sustainable heating. According to reports by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 12 million homes use heat pumps, and as efficiency rises, their adoption will continue to grow.

Want to know more about heat pumps? Here is a comprehensive guide that will benefit you.

What Are Heat Pumps?

Heat pumps have a dual function, which depends on the user’s preference. They draw heat into your house from the outside, providing warmth during heating mode, and they reverse the cycle to remove heat from the inside to the outside during cooling mode.

What Are the Major Components of a Heat Pump?

For the proper functioning of a heat pump, the following components are necessary:


This component facilitates the absorption of heat by the refrigerant through a process known as evaporation. This results in the creation of a low-temperature region. In this component, the refrigerant changes its state from liquid to gas.


The compressor is a component that raises the temperature of the refrigerant by increasing its pressure.


The condenser is an element that facilitates the emission of heat from the refrigerant to the surrounding air. At this stage, the refrigerant changes its state from a gas to a liquid.

Expansion Valve

The expansion valve enables the adjustment of the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant. This resets the refrigerant to its initial state.

How Does a Heat Pump Work in Cooling Mode?

During cooling, a heat pump absorbs heat from the warm indoor surrounding air and releases it to the cooler outdoor air.

The refrigerant begins the process in its initial state, a cold liquid form. It passes through an indoor coil, which acts as the evaporator. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the surrounding hot air through this coil, which provides a cooling effect.

Due to heat absorption, the refrigerant changes its state from liquid to gas. At this stage, it enters the compressor, which increases the pressure of the refrigerant. As a result, the refrigerant increases temperature and leaves as a hot gas.

The hot gas refrigerant then moves to an outdoor coil, which acts as the condenser. At this stage, it meets cool air. This facilitates heat transfer from the hot gas refrigerant to the surrounding cool air. As a result, the refrigerant changes its state from gas to liquid.

The refrigerant finally moves to the expansion valve as a warm liquid. The expansion valve lowers its temperature and pressure. This reverts the refrigerant back to its initial state as a cold liquid.

How Does a Heat Pump Work in Heating Mode?

In heating mode, the refrigerant’s flow reverses using a reversing valve. Consequently, the heat pump absorbs heat from the outdoor air and transmits it to the indoor surroundings.

The refrigerant passes through the outdoor coil, which now acts as the evaporator. At this point, the liquid refrigerant absorbs heat from the outdoor air, which converts it to a gas. The refrigerant then flows through the compressor, increasing the pressure and temperature.

The hot gas refrigerant then flows through the indoor coils, which act like the condenser. The hot gas refrigerant loses its heat to the surrounding indoor air, producing a heating effect. It subsequently changes its state from a hot gas to a warm liquid.

The refrigerant finally moves to the expansion valve, which reduces its temperature and pressure. This causes it to turn back into a cool liquid, and the process repeats.

What Are the Various Types of Heat Pumps?

The functionality of various types of heat pumps is basically the same. What sets them apart is their source of heat energy. The most common types of heat pumps are the following:

Air-to-Air Heat Pumps

These types of heat pumps are the simplest and most common due to their simple design and function. They can extract heat from the cool outdoor air and transmit it to the warm indoor air. This type is set apart by its redistribution of heat through air, even at very low temperatures.

Air-to-Water Heat Pumps

Air-to-water heat pumps are similar to air-to-air heat pumps in that they both extract heat from outside air. These heat pumps, however, achieve redistribution of heat through heated water. Instead of the refrigerant heating air, it heats water, which becomes the medium for conveying heat. For this type of heat pump to function effectively, installing a series of pipes and radiators is essential.

Water-Source Heat Pumps

These types of heat pumps are unique in that the refrigerant absorbs heat from a water source rather than from the air. These systems, however, need a location near a suitable body of water to function efficiently. Close proximity to a water body helps prevent heat loss by transporting water through extensive pipe networks.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

These systems are also called ground-source heat pumps. They are somewhat similar to water-source heat pumps, but they extract heat from the surrounding ground. The benefit of this system over water-source heat pumps is the temperature consistency of the ground in comparison to that of water. Additionally, they are flexible since the ground is limitless; therefore, they do not strongly depend on locality.

However, geothermal heat pumps are costly because ground preparation is labor intensive and requires high-end equipment. The installation is also pricey due to the extensive pipe network that needs to be set up to tap the heat from the ground.

What Are the Advantages?

There are numerous advantages to heat pumps. Let’s examine a few of them.

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps are popular for their low-emission electric use and high energy redistribution. In comparison to other systems, they provide a high mechanical advantage and efficiency.


With the multifaceted functioning of heat pumps, they can replace air conditioners as well as furnaces. In other words, they are an all-in-one package for a consumer.

Ecological Soundness

Unlike other heating systems such as furnaces, heat pumps use only electricity. This presents a considerable decrease in the carbon footprint produced.

What Are the Disadvantages?

You might wonder if there are any disadvantages. Yes, a few. Let’s look at those as well.

Initial Cost

The up-front cost of putting in a heat pump is fairly high in comparison to installing other heating systems. However, the longer life expectancy and lower energy costs usually offset this.

Complex Installation

Heat pump systems are rarely installed without experts. Additionally, systems like geothermal heat pumps require a lot of work to install. Our skilled specialists from Lightfoot Mechanical can help with the installation for residents in and around Weatherford.

Overall, heat pumps are the most affordable and effective way to manage both heating and cooling in your building. They are also more environmentally friendly as they lessen dependency on fossil fuels. If you’re upgrading from a conventional HVAC system to a heat pump, rely on our experts. We perform a complete array of HVAC, electrical, and plumbing services. Contact us today to perform heat pump installation, repairs, and more.

Meet the Author
Gary Lightfoot

With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Gary Lightfoot took over his family business and continues to run it with the values and standards set 35 years ago

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