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What is a Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

What is a Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

For cooling a hot room, you consider getting an air conditioner installed. There’s no doubt an air conditioning unit is designed to cool an entire room and offer you the comfort and coziness that every family wants in scorching weather. But, why spend on heating and cooling appliances separately when you can invest in a single device that offers both functionalities? A heat pump is known for its heating and cooling functions. It keeps the temperature in your rooms cool in summer and warm in winter, making your stay as pleasant as possible in all seasons. Some heat pumps can also heat water.

A heat pump works just like an air conditioner. Simply put, it pulls the heat from the ground or air and heats your room, bringing the freezing temperature to normal levels. In the same manner, it can cool your room. What sets them apart from air conditioning and furnace systems is that they are much more efficient than both. With a heat pump, you don’t have to install heating and cooling appliances separately, saving some space in your room.

Additionally, it’s energy-efficient in the way that it transfers heat from one location to another instead of burning fuel. If you are looking for a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and smart way to maintain the room temperature, there isn’t a better choice than a heat pump. In this post, we are going to discuss everything about this smart heating and cooling unit, its function, how it works, its benefits, and more. Keep reading.

Table of Contents

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

A heat pump works just like a refrigerator or an air conditioner. It pulls energy from multiple sources, including from beneath the ground, the air, and water. This heated air is then transferred to the place where it is needed. As mentioned earlier, heat pumps are famous for being greener and more energy-efficient than their electric HVAC counterparts. Instead of producing heat, they simply transfer it from one place to another. That’s how they consume far less energy and offer better heating and cooling capacity than other heating devices.

Experts believe that heat pumps are 3-5 times more energy efficient than any heating system. You can use them as a standalone appliance or in conjunction with gas boilers, whatever fits your requirements.

The air-source heat pump is an ideal choice for small and large households. The system consists of a compressor, refrigerant coils, fans, and a reverse valve. The coils in a heat pump are just like the ones you can find on your refrigerator. They pull air from outside. It’s then heated in the heat exchanger and distributed throughout your room through the refrigerant coils.

The reverse valve is the bonus point. It changes the direction of the airflow, releasing the hot air outside your home. That’s how a heat pump works as a cooler. The hot air is collected from your room and is transferred outside through the refrigerant coils. Once the hot air is released, the refrigerant collects more heat from indoors and releases it outside. The process keeps repeating until your home is at your desired temperature.

You can find heat pump installers North Carolina to buy the best system and have it installed perfectly. There are other types of heat pumps available too. Let’s explore all options so you can pick the one that’s most suitable for your place and budget.

Ground-Source Heat Pumps

In the air-source heat pumps, the fans bring the air into your home through refrigerant coils. They bring air into the heat exchanger and distribute it across the room. For large buildings, there is a single piece of the box containing both coils installed on the roof of the building with ductwork. You can also find heat pumps with indoor and outdoor units installed separately in the building. Usually, it depends on the type of heat pump you have installed.

Ground-source heat pumps are a little different in terms of structure and function. Instead of absorbing the air, they use geothermal energy to heat and cool a room. They deliver the same results as an air-source heat pump. The heat is collected from the underground water through refrigerants and is transferred to the home. Similarly, in hot weather, the unit collects hot air from your room and deposits it underground. With a ground-source heat pump in your place, you never have to worry about extremely hot or cold temperatures.

The unit consists of pipes that pull underground water, extract heat and then transfer it back to the lake. The unit keeps extracting water until the room temperature reaches your set level. You can also pair the air-source and ground-source heat pumps with thermostats to make the process more energy-efficient and convenient.

Absorption Pumps

If that doesn’t justify the heat pump efficiency, consider getting absorption pumps. They make the best investment for families planning to go green. They are just like air-source pumps, except that these are powered by natural gas, propane, and geothermal energy rather than electricity.

These units rely on the ammonia-water absorption cycle to deliver hot and cold air to your place. When buying an absorption pump, all you need to check is its COP (Coefficient of Performance). It should be above 0.7 and 1.2 for cooling and heating respectively. For homes without air ducts, there’s a special kind of heat pump designed to deliver hot and cold air through a small unit that’s flexible enough to be installed on walls, roofs, and ground. These are called mini-split heat pumps.

Although they are pretty great for those looking for ductless heat pumps, they don’t work for all homes. They are not large enough to move as much air inside and outside your place as the regular heat pumps. For small living spaces and commercial buildings that need to cool and heat small areas, a mini-split can be a good choice.

Heat Pumps Cost

Heat pump cost can range between $2,000 and $5,000, but it can be higher or lower depending on the system you choose and its installation. Certain heat pumps, such as the solar-powered, can cost higher. Likewise, if your home doesn’t have a duct line, you are going to have to invest extra in the ductwork.

The installation and purchase cost of these systems is a bit higher than average heating and cooling systems, but if we consider the monthly electricity cost, they can save you significantly. The solar-powered systems and the appliances that run on gas cost you incredibly less in the monthly energy bills as compared to the air conditioning.

These are also greener than electric furnaces, which rely completely on fuel to operate. Heat pumps derive energy from natural sources, making them a highly efficient, smart, and cost-effective option for all types and sizes of homes. As mentioned above, heat pumps are 2-in-1 units that work as both HVAC systems (air conditioner and furnaces). In addition to keeping your rooms warm in chilly weather, they do the work of an AC by keeping it cool during summer. So, that’s another factor that explains the high installation cost of a heat pump.

The heat pump installation cost depends on the size of your place, the labor involved, the brand you purchased, and the type of heat pump you are considering. Here is how the total cost of heat pump purchase and installation is calculated.

Type of Heat Pump

Geothermal heat pumps derive heat from underground water. They are highly efficient and work better than other types, but are comparatively expensive than their air-source counterparts. Air-source heat pumps, on the other hand, are most commonly installed in small and medium households because of their low operational and installation cost. The average cost of a geothermal heat pump can go up to $26,000, while the same for an air-source heat pump is around $13,500.

  • Size: The size of a heat pump is measured in BTUs or tons. Larger homes need these systems in large sizes and powerful enough to distribute heated and cold air throughout the room efficiently. Of course, these heat pumps will cost you much more than a smaller one. The best way to figure out the most suitable size of a heat pump for your house is by discussing your requirements with the HVAC contractor. They will calculate your home’s size in square footage, the ceiling height, and other factors before suggesting the most viable heat pump.
  • Brands: Brand is another factor that affects the price of a heat pump. If you buy it from a reputable brand, such as Bosch, you can expect to pay up to $8,200 (just the purchase cost). Other brands, like Coleman, sell the same unit for as low as $1,500. You can research the best brands offering premium heat pumps on the internet and choose the one selling the product at affordable prices.
  • Location: Heat pumps are designed to work in warm weather mostly. But the larger units from reputable brands tend to work in all climates. Usually, it’s advisable to install a heat pump if the temperature in your area remains 40 degree Fahrenheit or above. You can also use these systems in conjunction with other heating systems for improved efficiency, but that will add to the total installation cost.
  • Labor Cost: The labor cost also depends on many factors ranging from whether you have ducts installed or not. Ductwork installation can cost extra. Geothermal heat pump demands ground excavation, which requires a lot of labor work. You can also consider solar-powered pumps, which are going to save you considerably on the energy bills, but that comes with an additional installation price. You have to install panels for a solar-powered system.

Pros and Cons of Heat Pump Installation

Heat pumps seem like a viable option for all houses, but they have a few drawbacks you should know before you have them installed in your building. For instance, heat pumps may not work in areas where the temperature falls below freezing or remains cool throughout the year.

You will either have to install them with an electric furnace or buy a large unit that can cool your room quickly and efficiently. Transferring heat from an extremely cold area to a hotter one requires a considerable amount of energy than transferring hot air between two areas with moderate or warm temperatures.

If you are not sure whether a heat pump makes sense for your home, here is a list of its pros and cons.


  • Energy-Efficient: For areas that receive moderate climates, a heat pump is a great investment option. It keeps your space warm and reduces your electricity bills significantly. It’s also perfect for the environment, as it doesn’t burn fuel.
  • Versatile Choice: Heat pump is a versatile system that works as an air conditioner in warm weather and an electric furnace in cold temperatures. You can have this all-in-one system instead of separate devices.
  • No Safety Risks: Heat pumps do not carry any risk of gas leaks or health hazards. There is no flammable gas involved, offering the best protection from leaks and explosions.
  • No Additional Installation Needed: Given that you have a ductwork, there’s nothing else needed for a heat pump to work. You can select the one that looks suitable for your place and install it right away.


  • They don’t work in all areas
  • The installation cost of a heat pump is considerably higher than HVAC systems, although the heat pump monthly cost is lesser than other systems.
  • They run on electricity
What is a Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

This was all about heat pumps, the cost breakdown, and pros and cons. It’s a great investment for those looking for an energy-efficient and cost-effective heating and cooling unit in a single system. To know more about this heating and cooling unit, discuss your requirements with us. Being one of the renowned HVAC system installers in Fuquay Varina, NC, we can help you with all your HVAC requirements, whether it is preparing your air conditioner for summer or having a heat pump installed.


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