What Is a Heat Pump System?


Quick Answer

Heat pumps are electric devices that transfer heat from a colder area to a warmer one, allowing them to provide heat in a home when outside temperatures are cold and air conditioning when the temperatures outside are warm. They work on the same principle as a refrigerator.

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Full Answer

Air-source heat pumps are the most common type of these devices in use as of 2014. They remove heat from the air to warm an area. Because these devices pump existing heat instead of using resistance coils and electricity to produce it, they are more energy-efficient than typical electric furnaces.

When a heat pump works in the reverse direction, it becomes an air conditioner. The unit removes heat to provide cooling in the area. As the air passes over the cold coils, water condenses and drains, so the unit also provides dehumidification.

Geothermal heat pumps offer greater energy efficiency than the air-source unit. They use the ground or a water source to provide the heat. While they are more expensive to install, the operating costs are lower for ground-source units. Geothermal heat pumps are often a better choice in areas where air temperatures are very cold. Under these conditions, air-source heat pumps lose efficiency.

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