There are plenty of heating and cooling systems out there to choose from, but not many of them provide an energy-efficient, all-in-one solution. Enter the heat pump.

This HVAC option has a lot to offer for those looking for a different approach to heating and cooling. Heat pumps are energy-efficient, better for the environment, and simplify temperature regulation.

Have we piqued your interest?

Let’s dig deeper into what a heat pump is, how it compares to an air conditioning system, and if it is a good fit for you.  

How Do Heat Pumps Work? 

Heat pumps work in a similar way to a traditional air conditioning system. It uses a refrigerant to absorb heat from your home and move it to an outdoor unit to be released. During the colder months, it works to pull heat from outside and transfer it inside. Even when it’s cold outside the air still contains heat. Heat pumps can only draw heat from the air if the temperature is above freezing. Beyond that, it must rely on an added auxiliary electric heater or a separate furnace. 

Types of Heat Pumps

There are two different types of heat pumps. While they both use refrigerant to distribute heat, one pulls from the ground while the other pulls from the air. 

Grounds source heat pumps (also known as geothermal heat pumps) create a circuit between the air in your home and the ground. This is the most effective way to utilize this type of heating and air conditioning since the ground temperature remains consistent throughout the year. But the initial cost of installation can be expensive. 

Most homeowners opt to install an air-source heat pump. This system works by transferring heat between the air in your home and the air outside. It’s a much more affordable option so it’s popular for residential heating and cooling. 

Major Components 

There are a few parts of a heat pump that help it function year-round:

  • Indoor unit: this houses a coil and a distribution fan
  • Outdoor unit: there’s another coil situated here as well as a condenser for cooling and an evaporator for heating
  • Refrigerant: this is the fluid that helps to absorb and release heat
  • Compressor: pressurizes the refrigerant to aid in heat transfer 
  • Expansion valve: regulates the movement of refrigerant throughout the system
  • Reversing valve: changes the flow of refrigerant to shift from heating to cooling

Can You Have a Heat Pump in Cold Climates? 

While a heat pump system is well suited for a mild climate, they are still compatible with colder climates with a few adjustments. Colder regions can either use an auxiliary electric heater or a dual fuel system for supplemental heating. 

Manufacturers can install an electric heater within the indoor unit. When it drops below freezing temperatures, an electric heat strip will turn on to compensate for what the heat pump can’t handle on its own. While this does an excellent job to heat a home, it isn’t very energy efficient. 

A dual fuel system can be a more energy and cost-effective option in the long run. This requires a separate furnace to supplement your heating needs. It will kick on when the temperatures drop below a certain point. The furnace and the heat pump will never run at the same time.  

How Does a Heat Pump Compare to an AC? 

When in cooling mode, traditional air conditioners and heat pumps work in almost the exact same way. They use a compressed refrigerant to absorb excess heat from the air inside and transfer it outside. Heating is a different story.

Air conditioners cannot heat your home. Most people install a furnace to take over in the colder months. Heat pumps use their reverse valve to collect heat from outside to redistribute inside of a home or building. If in a region that dips into freezing temperatures, homes that use a heat pump will have an electric heater or a furnace that will help pick up the slack.  

Is a Heat Pump a Good Fit For Me? 

Heat pumps are a great heating and cooling solution but they’re not for everyone. Wondering if they’re a good fit for you? Review this pros and cons list to get a better idea. 


  • Two-in-one system
  • Energy efficient
  • More sustainable than an AC


  • Installation can be costly if you need a furnace 
  • Runs year-round so will need frequent maintenance and replacement 
  • Won’t work if the electricity goes out

There are plenty of other solutions out there for your heating and cooling needs. Ductless mini-split systems are excellent alternatives to the traditional HVAC systems you find in homes. The choice really comes down to how you want your home to run and how much you’re willing to spend on a modern heating and cooling system.