How Does a Heat Pump Work?

how does a heat pump work

Here in the South, we tend to stay away when we hear anything with the word “heat” in front of it. But heat pumps can actually heat and cool your home while saving you money. If you’re adding to your home or in the process of building a new home, installing a heat pump system might be what your home needs. Below, we’ll dive into what a heat pump is and how it works and saves you money.

If you want to know more about how a heat pump system can benefit your home, call a Shrevport heat pump installer at Pioneer Comfort Systems today at (318) 378-5729.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a multi-faceted heating and cooling system that can replace the traditional HVAC system. It can cool your home, like your air conditioner, and heat your home by pulling warm air from outside. In addition to heating and cooling, a heat pump system can also dehumidify and purify your home.

It’s called a heat “pump” because it pumps heat from either inside your home and moves it outside or pumps heat from the outside and moves it inside your home. Since a heat pump does not create heat but just moves existing heat, it’s much more energy efficient than the traditional central heating and cooling systems. 

A Typical Heat Pump System Includes

  • A compressor that pushes the refrigerant through the system
  • An evaporator coil and a condenser coil cool or heats the air
  • A reverse valve that alters the flow of the refrigerant
  • Thermostatic expansion valves that control the flow of refrigerant
  • Accumulator that adapts as the seasons change
  • Refrigerant lines connecting the inside and outside components
  • Heat strips for additional heat on colder days
  • Air ducts that direct the hot or cold air flow throughout the house

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Heat pumps move heat from one place to another regardless of the type of heat pump you have in your home. A furnace will generate heat and distribute it throughout the house, versus a heat pump taking existing heat energy from outside and moves it into your home.

A heat pump system will either take heat from the outdoor air, an air source heat pump, or will take heat from the ground or water source, a ground source heat pump.  

How Does a Heat Pump System Help Save Energy?

Heat pumps are very energy efficient because instead of using fuel like other HVAC systems, heat pumps use electricity, which also makes them more environmentally friendly. In fact, an article published by the Department of Energy stated that installing a heat pump in your home can cut your electric bill in half.

What makes heat pumps so efficient is that instead of creating heat, they redistribute heat that is already in the atmosphere. Since creating heat requires much more energy than transferring heat, heat pumps help you cut energy costs. 

What Should You Look For in a Heat Pump?

Not all heat pumps are made equally, so it’s important to be familiar with what to look for when deciding on which model of heat pump to install in your home.

Below are ten factors to consider when shopping for a heat pump.

Type of Heat Pump

Do you want an air or ground source heat pump? Both work similarly in that they transfer heat from outside, but how they’re installed is the most significant difference. Below we break down the biggest differences between the two types of heat pumps. 


When choosing a heat pump, it’s essential to consider the environment where you live. For example, air source heat pumps have a more challenging time heating homes in extreme climates where it gets lower than freezing. Since the winters in Louisiana aren’t as intense compared to other areas of the United States, either heat pump style should work in your home.

Energy Efficiency

All heat pumps are energy efficient, but their efficiency level can vary. When looking for a heat pump, energy efficiency is measured in two ways: HSPF, Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, and SEER, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The HSPF measures the heating performance during the cooler months, and the SEER measures the cooling season. A heat pump with an HSPF of at least 8.5 and SEER of at least 15 is recommended by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Heat Pump Size

Like an air conditioner, getting the wrong-sized heat pump can cause issues like extreme wear and tear and not properly heating or cooling your home. When deciding to install a heat pump, discussing the size you need with an HVAC expert at Pioneer Comfort Systems is important. 

Noise Output

Older heat pumps were known for being extremely noisy and loud, but newer technology has created quieter systems. Sound ratings are listed on the model of the heat pump, and you want to go with one with a decibel rating in the 50s or lower. 

Heat Pump Installation Costs

In addition to looking at the cost of the heat pump itself, you’ll want to also consider the cost of installation. When working with Pioneer Comfort Systems on your heat pump installation, we’ll let you know the costs of everything upfront but don’t sweat because we have financing options available.

Brand Reputation

At Pioneer Comfort Systems, we only offer the best quality heat pumps. You can choose from our American Standard Gold, Silver, or Platinum Series.

Brand Warranties

When selecting one of our American Standard heat pumps, you can have a five-year or ten-year warranty. 

Customer Satisfaction Rating and Reviews

Reading customer reviews is always necessary before making a big purchase, like a heat pump.

Advanced Features

Heat pump technology is constantly changing and can have features that make your heat pump run quieter and use less energy.

Types of Heat Pumps

All heat pumps work by transferring heat that is already in the atmosphere instead of generating heat. The differences are how they bring warm air into your home and distribute it. Below are the two most common types of heat pumps, air-source, and ground-source heat pumps. 

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are the most popular type of heat pump system because they’re easy to install as well as maintain. This heat pump works with two parts – an outdoor condensing unit and an indoor air handling unit. The outdoor condensing unit resembles a traditional air conditioner system. An air source heat pump transfers heat from the outside air into your home during the cooler months. During the summer, it will take the heat from inside your home and transfer it outdoors. 

Another reason that air source heat pumps are so popular is that they come in two different versions, ducted and ductless. While both types use outdoor condensing units, the most significant difference between these two is how they manage the air in your home. A ductless heat pump distributes air using a small, wall-mounted unit, also known as a mini-split. Mini-split systems are placed throughout your home and will circulate the air in each room that they are placed in. On the other hand, a ducted heat pump system uses a single air-handling unit, known as a standard split, to distribute the air throughout your home. Since a ducted system relies on ductwork, this heat pump is better suited for homes with existing ductwork, whereas ductless systems are great for rooms that have been added to homes or rooms that you need more heat or cool air in. 

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground-source heat pumps are also known as geothermal heat pumps and are more complicated than air-source heat pumps. This type of heat pump system takes heat from the ground or a water source instead of outside air, like an air source heat pump. Since these heat pumps use heat from the ground or water, they can be very expensive to install and maintain since you have to dig underground to reach them. So even though they’re slightly more energy efficient than air source heat pumps, the installation and maintenance make geothermal heat pumps less popular. 

The ground source heat pump takes the heat from the ground or water and either pushes or pulls heat from your home using underground pipes. During the summer months, ground source heat pumps remove heat from your home and move it to the ground. Whereas during winter months, the geothermal heat pump will take the heat from the ground and move it into your home. 

Benefits of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps have many advantages, and as technology advances, that list continues to grow longer. Over the years, heat pumps have become quieter and more efficient than air conditioners. One of the best benefits of heat pumps is that they can be used for both heating and cooling your home. Listed below are two more benefits of heat pumps.

Lower Electric Bills

One of the significant advantages of heat pumps is that they can save you money. Since heat pumps transfer heat instead of creating it from fuel, like combustion heating systems, less energy is used. According to the Department of Energy, an air-source heat pump can provide up to three times more heat energy to a home than the electricity used.

Great For Moderate Weather Climates

Heat pumps are great options for areas where the winter doesn’t get below-freezing temperatures, like here in the South. While we do experience some cold temperatures, it’s nothing that a heat pump can’t handle. When heat pump systems are installed in colder climates, they have to work harder and may not be as efficient as if they were warmer. This is because transferring heat from extremely cold temperatures to warmer ones takes more energy than moving heat between two moderate-temperature locations. If you live in a colder area, installing a dual system heat pump, which is essentially two heat pumps with one working as a backup, is often suggested.

AC vs. Heat Pump

Air conditioners and heat pumps are two common methods of cooling your home. Even though they have similar functions, like using refrigerants to cool air in the house and electricity to circulate air, they do have some differences. The most significant difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump is that an air conditioner only cools your home. Heat pumps move heat energy from one place to another, but air conditioners can only remove heat by pushing warm air outside. 

Some other differences between heat pumps and air conditioners are listed below.

  • Heat pumps can reverse their functions so that they can warm and cool your home, while an air conditioner can only provide cool air. Since heat pumps can deliver both cold and warm air, this makes them a more efficient option. 
  • An air conditioner is better for warmer temperatures when you only need to cool off your home since they’re basically useless in the colder months. Since air conditioners only run when it’s hot outside, they do tend to have a longer life expectancy than heat pumps. 
  • Another difference between heat pumps and air conditioners is their cost. Depending on the heat pump you install, heat pump systems may cost more upfront. Although air conditioners are generally less expensive, you’ll need to install a furnace or other heating system since they only cool your home. 
  • Heat pumps are more energy efficient than air conditioners since they consume less electricity. They also dehumidify better than air conditioners which cut down on costs.

Need Help With Shreveport Heating and Cooling Systems? Call Pioneer Comfort Systems

When choosing your heating system, there are many factors to consider, so weighing your options is always important. At Pioneer Comfort Systems, we’re familiar with all types of heating and cooling systems and can help you choose the right system to fit your and your family’s needs. To schedule an appointment with one of our heating and cooling experts, call us today at (318) 378-5729.