Pump It Up: Everything You Need to Know About Heat Pumps

Most homeowners understand the essentials about common home heating options, such as furnaces or boilers. Furnaces burn oil or gas and heat air, which a fan distributes through the house. Boilers heat water which gets pumped through the house to radiators.

What about heat pumps, though? If you’re scratching your head, you’re not the first. While popular among the sustainable living set, they’re far less common than furnaces and boilers.

Want to know more about heat pumps? Keep reading.

How Do They Work?

A heat pump works a lot like an air conditioner. A refrigerant passes through a coil and absorbs heat. Then it dumps that heat at a second coil.

In an air conditioner, the heat gets absorbed inside and dumped outside. That lets the AC unit cool your house.

What makes a heat pump unique is that it can absorb heat from even relatively cold air outside and move it inside. In essence, it reverses the process an AC unit performs. This ability to absorb heat either inside or outside lets a heat pump heat and cool your home as needed.

Types of Heat Pumps

You can get heat pumps in three main types:

  • Air-to-air
  • Geothermal

Air-to-air — the most common type — works as described above.

Geothermal heat pumps use long runs of plastic tubing under the ground to collect heat from the soil. Since the temperature is constant beneath the top layers of soil, it’s more efficient. These systems also prove more expensive to install.



You can perform basic maintenance on your heat pump to help it run efficiently. Make sure the heat pump gets a fresh filter every month. Clean the exterior coils and interior fan periodically.

Make sure you keep any brush, bushes, or grass cut back from the machine. Also, make sure nothing obstructs airflow around the unit, such as lumber or your kids’ sports equipment.

You’ll want a professional HVAC service to come out and perform a maintenance review each year. The HVAC technician can check for problems you couldn’t spot, such as refrigerant levels, duct leaks, and component failure. The techs can also ensure the electrical components, such as the thermostat, still work within their tolerances.

Parting Thoughts on Heat Pumps

Heat pumps don’t enjoy the same popularity as furnaces or boilers, but they can provide your home with efficient heating and cooling in moderate climates.

For those planning on staying in their home long term, a more expensive geothermal system can offer the best results. Yet any heat pump system takes you a big step toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

Recently move into a home with a heat pump or want to install one in your Wilmington, NC home? Contact Salt Air, Inc for all your heat pump maintenance and installation needs.