Air-source heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling super-efficiently to your building occupants.
Image by Guillermo Metz

Heat pumps can efficiently both cool and heat our buildings.

Heat Pumps

If you are looking to stop burning fossil fuels in your home, you may want to consider heat pumps as a great option. Heat pumps are a combustion-free technology used for heating and cooling buildings through both the cold winter months and hot summer ones. They use electricity and refrigerants, instead of combustion, to move heat between indoors and outdoors.     

What are heat pumps?

At the most basic level, a heat pump is defined as something that transfers heat from a hotter area to a colder one using mechanical energy. Refrigerators use this same technology. Essentially, a refrigerant is compressed mechanically, making it hotter, and that heat is then moved to a colder area, like your living room in the winter. The same thing can be made to work the other way around, moving hot air from your living room in the summer to the outdoors. 

What are the main types of heat pumps?

  • Geothermal- Heat pumps that use the ground temperature as a source or sink for heat.
  • Air Source- Heat pump systems that use the outside air as a source or sink for heat.
  • Heat Pump Water Heater- Heat pump systems that are used to heat domestic hot water. Although you can tie a water heater into your geothermal and some air-source systems, these appliances can also be stand-alone units.

What are the main components of a heat pump?

Heat pumps are made up of a compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator. As the refrigerant moves through each of these, it gives off heat (at the condenser) or takes in heat (at the evaporator). 

Geothermal, or ground-source heat pump systems, rely on pipes laid either horizontally or vertically in the ground to act as the heat source or sink, while air-source heat pumps, as the name suggests, use the air. Further, air-source heat pumps can either be whole-house systems that use ductwork to provide hot or cold air throughout the house or split systems that rely on individual units called heads to blow cold or hot air into a room. 

Sometimes Heat Pumps are called a "renewable" form of heating and cooling, what does that really mean?

It is true that heat pumps are often referred to as renewable heating and cooling. The carbon impact of heat pumps depends entirely on where the electricity used to power it comes from. This technology does not require the combustion of fossil fuels in order to function. If you power your heat pump with home solar, for example, you can have entirely net-zero emissions for your system.

Additional resources

For our brochure on Heat Pumps click here: Heat Pump Brochure

To read about Heat Pumps on the Department of Energy's website click here: Department of Energy Website

HeatSmart Tompkins ran several successful campaigns in the region, and their web site still hosts some great information.

Last updated May 2, 2024