What is a heat pump? It is as simple as it sounds; it is all in the name. A heat pump, pumps heat. It is a piece of equipment used to heat and/or cool a home. It uses the refrigeration cycle to mechanically transfer heat, drawing heat from the environment and moving it indoors to heat your home – or in reverse to withdraw heat from the home to cool it.
Heat pumps are common – so common in fact that you have likely lived with one in your home your entire life! It is not typically referred to as a heat pump but using the same basic heat pump process, your refrigerator extracts heat from inside the refrigerator and expels it outside of the unit to keep your food cold.
A window air conditioner also moves heat using the same mechanical principles. It extracts heat from a room and pushes it outside. Heat pumps do this too. In the summer, they extract heat from the air in your house and move it outside. However, unlike an air conditioner, heat pumps can reverse their operation to also heat your home in the winter.
Heat pumps are an increasingly common solution for home heating and cooling partially due to their flexibility in providing both heating and cooling, but also for their efficiency. They are significantly more efficient than electric resistance heating, providing three to four times more heating using the same amount of electricity. Homeowners who switch from electric baseboard heating to a heat pump see drastic reductions in their electric bills during the winter, while also offering additional savings during the summer cooling season. Some models – commonly referred to as cold climate heat pumps – now offer full heating capacity at low outdoor temperatures and efficient operation at temperatures below ten degrees Fahrenheit (10°F); a good solution for homes in Wisconsin.