Heat Pump Heating & Where It Comes From

You've got a heat pump, because they're supposed to be really energy efficient and versatile. Which is true. The ability to switch effortlessly between heat pump heating and cooling is a great advantage. But a heat pump doesn't burn gas, oil, wood or any other fuel, so how does it make the heat? And how does it do so efficiently?

Where Heat Pump Heating (and Cooling) Comes From

Energy efficient heat pumps are not combustion heaters like a traditional furnace. A furnace burns a fuel like oil or gas to create heat it then distributes around your home. Really, it's not that mechanically different from burning wood in a campfire.

Heat pumps use a very different technique. Instead of relying on combustion, a heat pump uses a chemical refrigerant to move heat around an environment. When you need to be cool, the unit moves the heat out of your home. Likewise, when you want to be warm, it takes heat from the outside air, and brings it inside the house. This can significantly increase interior temperature without resorting to burning or combustion of any kind.

This method of heating and cooling is very energy efficient compared to brute-force electric heating, and can be more than you need for many mild weather conditions. Even for homeowners who currently have a furnace installed, a heat pump is a terrific way to decrease your reliance on natural gas or expensive propane.

Unfortunately, there are drawbacks. The less heat there is in the exterior air, the harder a heat pump has to work. In extreme cold weather a heat pump can cease to function effectively at all. When that happens, a combustion furnace is necessary to generate heat conventionally.

Still Wondering About Heat?

Do you have other questions about heat pump heating, conventional gas furnaces, or other cold temperature solutions? Just ask in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

4 comments (view/add)
  • Robert Brownlee
    Robert Brownlee
    Posted on 10/14/2018

    Will heat pumps work in the Denver Colorado Area where the winter temperatures get down below -20 degr Pees? How cold could it get and still heat a house? Would I have to put an unit in every room? Please answer asap, as I am supposed to sign a contract tomorrow, for a new gas furnace and A/C unit.
    Thanks Bob

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 10/15/2018

    Yes, heat pumps will work in Denver. No, they will not work at -20 degrees. The best can work down to around -5, but they're not very efficient at that temperature. No, you would not necessarily have to put one in every room.

  • Terry E Jarrett
    Terry E Jarrett
    Posted on 10/17/2018

    Does the indoor part of the heat pump have electric heating coils for emergency use when the temperature is too cold fo the heat pump to heat efficiently?

  • Kyle
    Kyle from Ingrams
    Posted on 10/18/2018

    Most heat pump air handlers can accommodate electric heat strips for auxiliary heating.


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