The Ultimate Guide to Heat Pumps

July 10, 2023
Ultimate Guide to Heat Pumps | Heat Pump Installation in St. Louis | SmartHouse Heating & Cooling

The ultimate guide to heat pumps. Heat pumps have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their versatility and energy-saving capabilities. With their ability to redistribute heat they provide consistent comfort throughout the year. Whether you’re a homeowner considering a heat pump for the first time or simply curious about this innovative technology, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions. If you’re considering a heat pump installation for your St. Louis home, call SmartHouse Heating & Cooling at 314-370-1816, text us at 314-310-2242, or contact us online.

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps work by transferring and redistributing heat. In a cooling season, a heat pump finds the heat inside your home and transfers it outdoors to cool your home. In a heating season the process is reversed; the heat pump finds hot air outside – even in freezing temperatures – and transfers it inside your home. Heating and cooling is achieved through a refrigeration cycle which can be up to 4 times more efficient than traditional heating systems.

What’s with All the Buzz around Heat Pumps Lately?

Heat pump technology has existing in some form since the 1850s, but it’s started gaining steam in residential spaces for a couple main reasons:

  1. Heat pumps have become increasingly efficient and new models have a very competitive price point.
  2. We’re in the middle of a national trend toward electric power and energy solutions that reduce residential greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, the federal government has offered tax credits and local power companies offer rebates and discounts to incentive homeowners to invest in greener systems.

As more people hear about heat pumps, more wonder if they’re a good heating and cooling option for their home. In many cases, the answer is yes.

Two Types of Heat Pumps

Generally speaking, heat pumps cool and heat homes through two different means:

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps redistribute heat that’s found in the air inside and outside your home. In a cooling season, they use a refrigeration cycle just as a central AC does. In a heating season, that cycle is reversed. Most residential installations are air source heat pumps.

Air source heat pumps are often associated with ductless mini splits, which often use heat pump technology. These are individual wall-mounted units that can be used to heat or cool individual areas of your home, such as a new addition that doesn’t include ductwork or areas of your home underserved by your current HVAC system.

Air source heat pumps can also be connected to your existing ductwork for whole home heating and cooling, making them a reliable HVAC system regardless of your home’s duct situation.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Also called geothermal heat pumps, these take heat from the ground or water around your home instead of the air. The heat from the Earth is much more consistent than heat from the air, allowing for greater efficiency than air source heat pumps. When installed, a ground source heat pump stands in place of your furnace and AC, and is connected to several geothermal loops that are installed in your yard.

While geothermal heat pumps are more efficient, they have a higher upfront cost and installation complexity. They offer the most benefit to fully electric homes as heat pumps cut electricity use by as much as 50% or more over electric resistant heating. Your monthly bills would be cheaper and ground source systems are easily integrated into other green technologies like solar panels.

Benefits of a Heat Pump

Heat pumps offer numerous benefits over many traditional HVAC systems:

Greater Comfort and Ease of Living

Most heat pumps are variable capacity systems, meaning that instead of turning off once a desired temperature is reached, they run almost constantly to maintain that temperature. Longer run times mean the air is circulated more frequently, resulting in a more even air flow.

Depending on the make and model of your heat pump, you may also get:

  • Zoning and room by room temperature control (mini splits)
  • Quieter operation from both the indoor and outdoor unit
  • A significantly smaller outdoor unit, opening up space for more storage or activity in your yard


Heat pumps allow you to get your heating and cooling from one system. They can be integrated into most homes, including those that only use electricity or homes with incomplete ductwork.

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps are more efficient than traditional ACs and furnaces because they pump out more cool air by volume than energy it takes to run them. Variable capacity heat pumps also dehumidify better than conventional ACs, resulting in less energy usage in the summer. In the winter, they redistribute heat rather than generating it, leading to a 50% reduction in energy consumption over electric resistance furnaces.

If you have an all-electric home, the extra efficiency of heat pumps can quite literally change your life as it frees up a significant amount of money on a monthly basis.

Environmental Friendliness

Heat pumps offer a win-win scenario for the planet and the homeowner. They allow you to take steps towards environmental responsibility without any inconvenience (in most cases, they actually offer more convenience). By using electricity heat pumps produce 20% less greenhouse gas emissions than gas boilers.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Heat Pump


Larger heat pumps have a larger output capacity, but if they’re too large they’ll cycle on and off too frequently, wasting energy. If the heat pump’s too small it won’t heat or cool your home completely. The right size heat pump for your home is based on a load calculation and the size of your ductwork.

Compressor Type

Heat pumps come with the same compressor types of traditional ACs:

  • Single-stage heat pumps turn on at 100% power until a desired temperature is reached, then shut off.
  • Two-stage heat pumps offer slightly more efficiency by having two “on” settings, one at 100% capacity and one around 70%.
  • Variable capacity heat pumps offer the greatest efficiency because they run almost constantly instead of cycling on and off.

There’s a reason variable capacity systems are the future of home heating and cooling. They’re far less expensive to operate, provide more consistent comfort, and the price difference has been narrowed significantly. Most homeowners want variable capacity systems once they understand the benefits.

Energy Efficiency

In a cooling season, efficiency is rated by a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2 (“SEER2”), which measures the total heat removed from your home over a cooling season divided by how much energy your heat pump uses. Federal law requires a SEER2 of at least 14, but the most common and cost effective range is 16-20.

In a heating season, heat pumps are rated by the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), which is the ratio of heat output in BTUs (British Thermal Unit) to electricity used over a heating season. The minimum HSPF rating is 8.2 for heat pumps, but heat pumps in a range of 9 to 11 offer the most benefit.

Look for models with higher efficiency ratings for the greatest reduction in operational cost and environmental impact. Heat pumps with higher efficiency ratings may also qualify for rebates and tax incentives.


Heat pumps can vary greatly in their quality, price, efficiency, features, and warranties depending on who makes them. At SmartHouse, our preferred brands include:

  • Daikin — Daikin is an established global innovator in home comfort that offers a range of top quality heating and cooling products. The Daikin Fit AC and heat pump is an industry-leading variable capacity system that offers superior comfort at a very competitive price.
  • Mitsubishi — Mitsubishi offers a full line of high-performing ductless mini splits that usually qualify for the most government tax credit incentives.

The best way to find the right heat pump for your home is to call SmartHouse. We have a full team of building science experts dedicated to making accurate recommendations based on your specific needs.

How to Maintain a Heat Pump

From a homeowner’s perspective, heat pump maintenance is pretty much the same as maintenance for a traditional AC unit:

  • Check and clean or replace the filters regularly
  • Clear the outdoor unit of debris and wash it down with a garden hose
  • Schedule professional HVAC maintenance once during the cooling season and once during the heating season

Should I Get a Heat Pump?

Most homes could use more energy efficiency, and a heat pump can help most homes become more efficient. The best times to consider a heat pump for your home are:

  • You’re looking for an AC or heating replacement
  • Your home presently heats with electric
  • You’re interested in helping the environment and reducing your carbon footprint
  • You have or are considering solar panels
  • You use a boiler for heat, as heat pumps can heat your home much quicker than boilers in moderate temperatures

Call SmartHouse for Your Heat Pump in St. Louis Today

Heat pumps are a great option for homeowners who want to enjoy year-round comfort, lower energy bills, and reduced environmental impact. SmartHouse offers a full range of services to go along with your heat pump, including:

  • Expert installation and maintenance
  • Flexible financing options
  • Tiered SmartCare Service Plans
  • 24/7 emergency dispatcher (our trucks are on the road from 7AM to 10PM, 7 days a week)

When it comes to your home comfort and efficiency, never settle for less. Make the Smart Call to SmartHouse at 314-370-1816, test us at 314-310-2242, or contact us online today.