Here’s How to Pick The Right Type of Heat Pump for Your Home

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated March 10, 2022
American house exterior with double garage
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Heat pumps pull double-duty as both heating and cooling systems

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Heat pumps do a lot more than heat your home; they also cool it. That means choosing the best type of heat pump for your home is important for year-round comfort. 

Unlike a gas furnace, heat pumps transfer heat, not generate it. They draw heat from outside—even when it’s cold—and bring it inside. Before buying your own, there are a few things to consider. Read on to learn which heat pump type is right for you.

Air Source Heat Pumps

An air conditioner equipment
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Best for: Homes that want a standard heating option with a low carbon footprint

Ducted air source heat pumps are the most common heat pump type. They pump heat into your home with two parts: an indoor air handler unit and an outdoor heat pump unit. Tubing carries a refrigerant between the two units that absorbs and releases heat as it moves from one unit to the other.

According to the Department of Energy, air source heat pumps can reduce your electricity use by 50% compared to electric furnaces and baseboard heaters. Plus, air source heat pumps dehumidify better than most central air conditioners. With an air source heat pump, you won’t have to stress about keeping your home comfortable in the summer.

Ductless Air Source Heat Pumps

An air conditioning unit heat pump
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Best for: Homes without ducts or small additions

Air source heat pumps are also available in a ductless version. Like ducted air source heat pumps, they have two parts: an outdoor unit and an indoor air handler. Refrigerant circulates through tubing between the systems to pump heat into your home. 

At least one indoor air handler is necessary, but you can have multiple working simultaneously you have more rooms you need to heat. You can install them at the top of an indoor wall or even on the ceiling, operating it with a remote control.

Because ductless air source heat pumps don’t require ductwork, they are the most practical heat pump option for homes without ducts or small additions. The cost of a ductless heat pump is relatively high, but many homeowners prefer them because of the flexibility of their design.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Underfloor heating system installation
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Best for: Homes with lots of land and water access

Sometimes called ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps transfer heat between your home and the ground. It pumps heat through a series of pipes that are buried in loops outside to bring it inside and circulate it through your home.

Geothermal heat pumps are efficient heat pump options, though they tend to cost more to install than other heat pump types. On the plus side, their operating costs are considerably low because they take advantage of constant ground or water temperatures. According to the Department of Energy, they can reduce energy use by 30% to 50%. They also control humidity and work well in a variety of homes and climates.

Which Heat Pump Type is Right for My Home?

Heat pump standing in backyard during summer
Photo: Westend61 / Adobe Stock

The right heat pump for your home ultimately depends on your personal preferences as well as where you live and how big your home is. Newer heat pumps work in most parts of the United States, in areas with and without major temperature swings throughout the year. Here are a few things to consider before you buy a new heat pump.

  1. Climate: If winters are extremely cold where you live, like below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you might need an auxiliary heating system.

  2. Sizing: An oversized or undersized heat pump won’t adequately heat or cool your home. To find the right size for your space, discuss your options with a heating and cooling professional who can calculate the right size.

  3. Efficiency rating: Typically, the higher the rating, the higher the system’s cost. But you can save on your utility bills by upgrading an old system to an Energy Star-rated product.

  4. Efficiency factors: Seal windows, doors, add insulation, and take other actions to make your home as energy-efficient as possible before buying a heat pump. It could affect the size you need to purchase.

Sizing your heat pump is an important aspect that could increase or decrease the efficiency of your pump. Hire an HVAC professional near you to discuss your options and determine which heat pump is right for your home.

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