What Are These Things Called Heat Pumps?

What Are These Things Called Heat Pumps?

You might have heard of them, but lots of folks don’t know what they are. Basically, a heat pump heats and cools a home, doing away with separate furnace and air conditioner units. Heat pumps are most common in the Deep South, but they’re also used up north.

Would a heat pump be good for Chicago air conditioning and heating?

The short answer is “maybe.” As mentioned above, heat pumps can be used to both heat and cool a building. In some situations, a heat pump is better than using a separate furnace and air conditioner.

They’re called “heat pumps” because they use a small amount of energy to transfer (“pump”) heat from one place to another. Instead of using fuel to create heat or cool the air like a traditional furnace or air conditioner, a heat pump uses energy simply to move existing heat, either into or out of the building. There are several types of heat pumps, but they’re all based on heat transfer. They just do it in different ways.

When used in heating mode, the most common type (called air-source or air-air heat pumps) pulls heat out of cold outside air and pumps it into a building, warming the building’s air. In air conditioning mode, the heat pump’s operation is reversed. Heat is pulled out of the building and pumped outdoors, leaving the building’s air cooler.


One of the biggest advantages of heat pumps over traditional HVAC equipment (furnaces and air conditioners) is that they prevent the need to buy, install, maintain and repair separate HVAC units. Because they don’t burn fuel to create heated or cooled air, they also tend to be more energy-efficient than traditional air conditioners and furnaces. That means a heat pump could potentially lower your heating and cooling bills.


Air-source heat pumps work best in moderate climates. In areas that don’t experience severe cold (near or below zero on a regular basis) or extreme heat, they can be energy-efficient and extremely effective. These types of heat pumps may not be suitable for Chicago’s climate, or at least not without some sort of supplemental heating setup.

Fortunately for those of us living and working in Chicagoland, a new type of heat pump has been developed. Called an “all-climate” heat pump, this type can operate effectively in temperatures as low as 30 degrees below. They’re mainly used for heating because they’re not as efficient at cooling a building as a traditional central air conditioner.

Typically, residential heat pumps are split systems with two components – an outdoor unit that resembles a central air conditioning unit, and an indoor air handler unit. Larger systems for commercial buildings usually come as a single unit that’s installed on the building’s roof.

Would a heat pump be right for you? It depends on your situation. The folks at 24 Heating & Cooling are pros. They’ll let you know if a heat pump would be a good heating and cooling solution for your home or business. If so, they sell, install, maintain and repair them.

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