What is a Heat Pump & How Does it Work?

what is heat pump

Have you been hearing a lot about heat pumps lately but you’re not even sure what a heat pump is? That’s okay. HVAC companies, like Team Harding, are talking about heat pumps a great deal these days but we understand that not everyone knows what we’re talking about. In this article, we’ll answer the question: what is a heat pump?

What is a heat pump?

To put it simply, a heat pump is an HVAC system that can both heat and cool a space by transferring warm air. The more technical answer is that a heat pump is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that can be reversed to either warm or cool a space. 

Installation for this type of system typically consists of two parts: an indoor unit called an air handler and an outdoor unit similar to a central air conditioner, but referred to as a heat pump. A compressor circulates refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.

How does it work?

You can think of a heat pump as a heat transporter constantly moving warm air from one place to another, to where it’s needed or not needed, depending on the season. Even in air that seems too cold, heat energy is present. When it’s cold outside a heat pump extracts the heat from the outside air and transfers it inside. When it’s warm outside, it reverses directions and acts like an air conditioner, removing heat from your home.

Ducted vs. Ductless Heat Pumps

Ductless heat pumps don’t require ductwork, as the name implies. Ductless heat pumps are great for homes without existing ductwork.

Ducted heat pumps can work with your existing ductwork or may require some ductwork modification for proper installation. 


The reason heat pumps are so popular these days is because they come with a lot of advantages.

Energy Efficiency

One advantage of a heat pump is that it moves heat instead of generating heat, making them more energy efficient. This means you can save on energy consumption. 

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Also, heat pumps are powered by electricity, so you can save on fuel consumption. But more than that, you can reduce your carbon footprint by using an HVAC system that doesn’t rely on burning fossil fuels which pollute the air.

Year-Round Comfort

As mentioned, heat pumps can heat and cool a space. They act as an air conditioner in the summer and a heat source in the winter. While heat pumps are most efficient in climates that are a bit milder, they can also be used with or as a supplemental heat source. For example, you could install a hybrid heating system, consisting of a furnace and a heat pump for maximum efficiency and comfort. On the other hand, if you need supplemental heating or cooling in a certain space (like a garage or basement), a heat pump is the perfect solution!  

Rebates & Grants

Another major benefit of heat pumps is that there are currently grants and rebates available to Canadians who want to save on the installation of one. Since heat pumps can reduce our carbon footprint and lower our dependence on fossil fuels, the Government of Canada and Enbridge Gas have teamed up to co-deliver the HER+ (Home Efficiency Rebates Plus) Program. If you qualify, you could receive up to $7,800 for the installation of a qualifying heat pump system! Learn more about Ottawa heat pump grants here.

Learn More About Heat Pumps

If you’re unsure whether a heat pump would be the right choice for your home, talk to one of the experts at Team Harding. Our knowledgeable team of home comfort advisors will help you decide on a reliable system that fits your needs and budget.

Have questions about heat pumps?

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Team Harding has been Ottawa’s leading home comfort specialist since 1994. We are a family-owned and operated local business and all of our installers and technicians are fully licensed.

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