How Do Heat Pumps Work?

You may already have a heat pump installed on your property. Or, you may be considering opting for this form of heating system to save on energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Whatever the case is, knowing how heat pumps work can be useful and help you understand why they're so popular among homeowners.

How Does A Heat Pump Work?

Heat pumps are ductless appliances that work by heating and cooling your home using electricity and refrigeration mechanics. Although the term "heat pump" may be confusing, it's important to note that this system can also work as an air conditioner in warmer months, making them a valuable appliance for any home or business.

There are also two main types of heat pumps: ground-source and air-source heat pumps.

A heat pump works by using a refrigerant to warm your home. To keep it simple, we will explain how the heating system increases the temperature inside your home. But when you're using your appliance for cooling, this operation is reversed and removes warm air from your home.

Firstly, the heat pump uses air or residual heat from the ground as a heat source and pushes the air or water over the heat exchanger. The warmth from one of these sources causes the refrigerant liquid to turn into a gas through evaporation.

Once it has evaporated, the system pulls the gas through a component known as a compressor. The compressor drives up the unit's internal pressure, which causes an increase in temperature within the heat pump.

When your heat pump reaches the desired room temperature, it flows over the internal heat exchanger and passes through to a central heating system or is transferred into a water system to produce hot water.

As the heat is pushed into the central heating system and, ultimately, into your home, the internal temperature of the heat pump begins to fall, and the refrigerant is slowly returned to a liquid state. The sequence repeats itself until your home reaches your desired temperature, which is set by a thermostat.

Air-source heat pumps

Air-source heat pumps

Air-source heat pumps pull outdoor air into the outdoor condenser unit that sits above the ground outside the house. An air-source heat pump also comes in two variations: air-to-air and air-to-water.

An air-to-air heat pump takes heat from the outside air and pulls it through the unit to heat the refrigerant. When the pressure inside the unit builds up, warm air is fed through the inside component via fans. This type of air-source heat pump can be used to warm your home but doesn't provide users with hot water.

Adversely, an air-to-water heat pump takes heat from the outside air and pushes it through a wet central heating system that provides hot water and central heating.

This type of air-source heat pump works best with radiators or underfloor heating because the heat produced by the pump can't reach the same temperatures as boilers. But an air-to-water heat pump can be incredibly efficient in homes with better insulation.

Ground-source heat pumps

A ground-source heat pump works slightly differently from air-source pumps and may require a more costly upfront payment. This is because these heat pump systems work by circulating a water and refrigerant mixture through underground pipe circuits known as ground loops.

When you're using a ground-source heating system, you may need to install these ground loops if there aren't already pipes installed. This contributes to the higher cost of these heat pumps.

As these loops circulate the water mixture, the heat from the ground begins to warm it up. Eventually, the mixture is sent back through a heat exchanger and to the central heat pump unit, where the heat is drawn into the unit.

The extracted heat warms the refrigerant, causing an increase in internal temperature. When the temperatures have risen enough, you can use your heat pump for hot water, radiators, or underfloor heating.

The system works almost identically to a boiler but is an eco-friendly alternative as it doesn't use fuel for heating. You can also get a closed or open ground loop. An open ground loop takes water from a natural source such as a well, while closed ground loops use the refrigerant and water mixture.

Is A Heat Pump System Worth It?

These handy systems have many benefits compared to other heating systems. So, before we get into what makes a heat pump unit worth the investment, we're going to take a look at the benefits - and drawbacks - of installing a heat pump system in your home.

The benefits of a heat pump system

Cheaper than other heating systems

One of the most common complaints among homeowners is that their monthly bill costs are just too high. And we completely agree! It seems like everything nowadays is becoming more expensive by the minute. So it would only make sense to install a heat pump system and save yourself extra monthly expenses.

Heat pump systems are energy efficient; despite needing electricity to run, they only use around a third of the energy of a generic heating system. Investing in an all-in-one heating source like an air-to-water or ground-source pump can reduce the energy it takes to warm your home and generate hot water.

While it may not seem like this makes a difference month-to-month, using that much less electricity can result in an average saving of over £1,000 a year!

Easy to maintain

Combustion-based heating sources are tricky to maintain and usually require a skilled professional to check on the health of all the components. However, heat pumps are much easier to maintain and can easily be checked without calling in a professional!

Ideally, you should check your heat pump every year to ensure it's still working as effectively as before. Luckily, an above-ground pump, like an air-source heat pump, doesn't require much care to maintain them.

Long life-expectancy

Because they're easy to maintain and rely on renewable energy, heat pumps have a much longer life expectancy than combustion-based heaters. With routine maintenance, heat pumps installed properly and with high-quality components can last up to 20-25 years.


Because of their dependence on electricity to function, heat pumps are not entirely carbon-neutral. However, they do have an energy-efficient conversion rate from electricity to heat and can reduce your carbon emission significantly.

They also have a higher Coefficient of Performance, which means they become even more energy-efficient during colder months. So, for anyone that's eco-conscious, this is a huge advantage to installing heat pumps in your home.


Compared to combustion-based heaters, heat pumps are much safer - particularly for residential use. Additionally, because they use electricity instead of fuel to produce heat, they pose fewer safety risks than other heating systems.

This advantage can also be applied to businesses that use heat pumps to generate heat. Businesses can profit from having fewer liabilities in the workplace, making it an easy choice to make the switch.

Cools your home

Heat pumps aren't only useful for heating your home. In fact, the heating process can be reversed by switching your indoor heating component to its cooling setting. So, instead of pumping warmth into your home, your unit will remove hot air and generate cool air.

When your heat pump works in reverse, it functions similarly to an air conditioning unit.

Drawbacks of heat pumps

Drawbacks of heat pumps

Expensive to install

One of the biggest drawbacks of installing heat pumps is their cost. Because of the research and intricate installation process, homeowners may face a high upfront cost. However, it's important to remember that these heating systems are a long-term investment and will pay for themselves in the long run.

However, when you factor in the savings on your energy bills, the savings far outweigh the drawback of the initial cost.

Operate on electrical energy

Heat pumps require electricity to operate, which may be considered a disadvantage by homeowners looking to go completely carbon-neutral.

However, the amount of energy these pumps consume is far less than other heating sources. Additionally, the benefits of installing these systems far outweigh the small drawbacks.

So, is a heat pump worth it?

Is a heat pump worth it

A heat pump is worthwhile for any home or business. It is a fantastic, energy-efficient heating system that is eco and budget-friendly, making it a top choice among residents who want to reduce their carbon footprint and the effect of climate change.

And, rather than paying for separate heating and cooling systems, residents can opt for an all-in-one system by picking their preferred heat pump appliance.

If you're ready to begin your heat pump installation, you may want to take a look at PlumbNation's range of air-source heat pumps. We guarantee our customers nothing but the best!