How does a heat pump work?

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What Is a Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

A heat pump is an alternative to having a furnace and air conditioner heat and cool your home. It transfers heat between the air in your house and the outside air. It’s helpful to know the basics of heat pumps if you’re thinking of buying one.

Outdoor Unit

Heat pumps have an outdoor unit that’s placed on a pad, just the same as an air conditioner. The unit has a fan that blows air over coils so that heat can be exchanged. In the summer, heat from your house is blown outdoors. In the winter, heated air is blown inside.


Like an air conditioning system, heat pumps have refrigerant. The refrigerant absorbs and removes heat as it cycles through the system. A compressor pressurizes the refrigerant and pushes it through the system.

Reversing Valve

An indoor thermostat controls the reversing valve in the heat pump. You set the thermostat to “heat” so that warm air comes into your home. In the winter, you set it to “cool,” causing the opposite reaction to happen.

Benefits of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are very energy-efficient. They only use electricity for power, not to heat or cool the air. This makes them far more efficient than furnaces or air conditioners. They’re also very safe to use since they don’t utilize natural gas.

Will It Work When It’s Freezing Outside?

Heat pumps can warm your residence even when it gets very cold outside. How cold of weather it can tolerate depends on the heat pump’s make and model. Some will work even when it gets down to -13 degrees outside. If you live somewhere it can be extremely cold, you’ll likely want a backup furnace installed just in case.

Burkholder's Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. is a locally owned company based in Emmaus, PA. We install, repair, and tune up furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners. Our services also include duct cleaning, indoor air quality, zoning, and more! Call us today to schedule a service.