All forms of heating and cooling come with unique needs, so it’s important to know what system your house uses. If you think you have a heat pump, but you’re not 100% sure, our experts at Service Emperor are here to help.
Let’s go over the main characteristics of every standard HVAC system and how heat pumps function differently.
How Does a Conventional Heating and Cooling System Work?
Air Conditioner Systems
Air conditioners might come in various forms, but they all work under the same basic premise. They lower your indoor air temperature by absorbing the excess heat and humidity and releasing it outside. Then, they return the cool air indoors and repeat this process until the desired temperature is reached.
It’s easy to confuse heat pumps with air conditioner systems because they can both come in a split system or multiple packaged units. If your HVAC system is only capable of blowing air that’s cool, then it probably uses an AC unit.
Boilers are a conventional system that uses energy from fuel or electricity to heat water and turn it into steam. Then, the water or steam circulates through your home via pipes to provide heat.
You likely have a boiler if the primary unit connects to a series of pipework instead of air ducts. Another way you can differentiate them from heat pumps is that they can also provide hot water for your plumbing fixtures.
Furnaces are another conventional system that uses heated coils to raise the temperature of passing air. Then, the hot air travels through different vents and ductwork to circulate inside your home.
If you have a furnace, you will likely find the central heater unit indoors. A natural gas furnace is particularly easy to identify because it often has a small window where you should see a blue flame, known as a pilot light, for burning fuel. If you see your unit connected to heavy gauge wiring instead of a pilot light, it might be an electric furnace.
How Does a Heat Pump Work?
Heat pumps are capable of generating both cool and warm air. As a heating system, they don’t generate heat but collect it instead, similar to a traditional air conditioner.
When the days grow hot, air source heat pumps collect hot air inside your property and transfer it outside to keep you comfortable. During the winter season, it reverses the process by moving heat from outdoor air and circulating it throughout your house.
Differentiating a Heat Pump from a Conventional System
Aside from having the ability to produce both warm or cold air, heat pumps have many other distinctive qualities. Here are the five main steps you can take to see if you have a heat pump or a conventional system.
1. Change the Thermostat Setting on Your Unit
One easy way to check if you have a heat pump or not is to raise the set temperature of your thermostat. After turning up the heat, visit your outdoor unit. If it’s actively running and producing heat, then you probably have a heat pump.
2. Find the Model Number of Your Heating System
Every HVAC unit comes with a model number that can help you identify its heating or cooling process. Check the body of your main unit for a model number and look it up online. You might also need to include the brand name too, depending on the system you have.
3. Check the Energy Guide Label
If you can’t locate the model number on your heat pump, then you might have more luck finding its EnergyGuide rating. This bright yellow label, usually found on the indoor air handler or the outdoor unit, should come with two numbers representing the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).
Why is this a tell-tale sign that you have a heat pump system? Since heat pumps can provide heating and cooling, they are also the only HVAC system rated for both cold and heat energy efficiency.
4. Does It Come Installed With Emergency Heat?
Unlike your typical furnaces, boilers, or any other heaters, a heat pump’s performance suffers when your outdoor environment drops below freezing temperatures. That’s why many heat pump systems come with heat strips to serve as emergency heating.
When there’s not enough outdoor heat, this backup feature automatically becomes active. You can usually confirm this feature on your thermostat because it will show “Auxiliary Heat” or “Emergency Heat” on the display.
5. Locate the Heat Pump Reversing Valve
Check the condenser portion of your exterior unit and see if it has a heat pump reversing valve. If you find a horizontal brass pipe with three fittings on one side, then you own a heat pump system.
Heat pumps need this component to switch from cool to heat mode and vice versa. If the valve is not immediately visible, don’t give up your search just yet. Sometimes, it’s hidden behind an access panel outside of the condenser.
If you still can’t locate it, you might have an air conditioner or a different heating system.
Have More Questions About Cooling and Heating Systems?
Whether you own a heat pump, furnace, boiler, air conditioner, or any HVAC system, our friendly experts at Service Emperor are ready to serve. We offer regular maintenance plans that will keep your current heating or cooling unit in excellent condition all year round.
Our team will work hard to ensure you can trust our work and expertise when it comes to your system. Because we put a keen focus on continued training and education, we can guarantee that you get nothing less than the best service in the industry.
Need some help identifying your current heating and cooling system? Do you need a new AC or Heat Pump installed in your home? Whatever your HVAC needs, you can count on our team for exceptional service. Call us at (912) 231-5430 and get in touch with our experts today!