How Does a Heat Pump Thermostat Work?

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Last Updated on June 15, 2021 by Peter M. Dodson

Are you looking for an efficient, cleanest, and safest way to heat your home? Choose a heat pump and enjoy a comfortable temperature in both the winter and summer.

But improper use of a heat pump will lead you to more heating bills.

So, it is essential to know how does a heat pump thermostat work. Without knowing it, you will be unable to get the best use of your heat pump.

This guideline will let you know the details of the heat pump, and at the same time, we will focus on the working process of heat pumps.

What is the definition of a heat pump?

Heat Pump Thermostat

Generally, a heat pump is similar to an air conditioner that works in reverse to deliver a comfortable temperature in your home. Due to a heat pump, heat moves around the home in different corners. In summer, it moves heat from inside to outside from home. And in winter, it does the reverse.

You need to keep one thing in your mind; generating heat is not the responsibility of heat pumps; moving heat from one place to another is their responsibility.

Heat Pump Types

The reverse operation is the unique characteristic of heat pumps, and they are efficient in providing cooling and heat. Even some heat pump models can increase the water supply of your home. The way the heat pumps work in winter depends on the heat pump type you install.


This type of heat pump pulls out air from outside and condenses it until you start feeling comfortable in your home.


These models take thermal energy benefits, which are stored underneath the earth’s surface to control the heat of your home or workplace.

Ductless Heat Pump

It consists of distinct air handlers, and air passes through it to keep the living space warm.

Heat Pump Components

An outdoor unit and an indoor air handler, these 2 are the significant components of a heat pump.

Outdoor Unit: You will find it similar to an outdoor unit of an air conditioner, and it consists of a fan and a coil. The coil shows characteristics of a condenser and an evaporator in cooling mode and heating mode, respectively. The fan assists in blowing outside air over the coil, and thus the coil helps exchange the heat.

Indoor Air handler: A coil and a fan are the prime components of an indoor air handler.

Other components that use a heat pump include:

Refrigerant: When the heat circulates throughout the entire heat pump system, because of refrigerant, the heat gets absorbed and rejected.

Compressor: The refrigerant gets pressurized due to the compressor. As a result, it moves throughout the heat pump system.

Reversing Valve: The refrigerant flow gets reversed when required to alter between cooling and heating.

Expansion Valve: It performs similar to an internal meter that controls the refrigerant flow to cool or heat as necessary.

How does a heat pump thermostat work?

Heat Pump Thermostat Work

Characteristically, heat energy is prone to move lower temperatures and less pressure areas. Heat pumps depend on it and easily communicate heat with a cold, low-pressure environment to transfer naturally. This is why heat pumps are more efficient in terms of moving heat from one area to another.

Every heat pump comes with cooling and heating mode. When a heat pump thermostat works in cooling mode, it removes heat away from the home. While heating mode works to take the heat inside the home. Both modes’ working process is quite different, and it is its prime responsibility to keep your home at your desired temperature.

Let’s learn the working process of different modes from below.

Cooling Mode

You might be wondering, thinking that how does a heat pump thermostat work in cooling mode? In cooling mode, it works similarly to an air conditioner. Take the cold air inside the home and replace the warm air with it. Thus, you are getting a comfortable temperature in your home in both winter and summer.

Step 01

The liquid refrigerator acts as an evaporator and is pumped through an expansion device.

Step 02

Inside air gets blown across the coil, and refrigerant absorbs the heat.

Step 03

The cool air blew across the home.

Step 04

The liquid refrigerant vaporizes into gas when it heats up.

Step 05

When the gas is passing through the compressor, it provides pressure to the gas.

Step 06

Once the gas receives pressure, it becomes hot. It moves to the outdoor unit.

Step 07

The outdoor unit consists of a fan. The fan pushes the gas to move across the coil. At this point, the air is cooler compared to the hot gas.

Step 08

The heat gets released to the outside air from the refrigerant.

Step 09

The refrigerant returns to liquid.

Step 10

The system pumped back the liquid refrigerant.

Step 11

The process continues until you change the mode.

Heating Mode

So, what is the working process of the heat pump in heating mode? When the weather is cool outside, a heat pump detects outside heat and transfers the heat to the inner of a home.

Even if the weather is cold in different states of the United States, a heat pump can still detect heat from the outside air.

The truth is, 9° outside air has 82% of the heat found in the air at 100°.

A heat pump is proficient enough to pull all outside heat into the inside so that you can have a sound sleep in the winter.

The process mechanism is quite similar to the cooling mode; the only difference is; it works following the reverse way.

The liquid refrigerant absorbs heat energy in the outdoor unit and turns it into gas. Hot gas gets generated when the cold gas receives pressure. Due to the passing air, the hot gas gets cooled and shrinks it to warm liquid. The warm liquid becomes a cool liquid, and the process continues.

Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner – Which one is Better

Heat pump and air conditioner both are great options to control your home temperature. But depending on the situation, you have to pick any of them.

Below we are sharing the difference between a heat pump vs. an air conditioner.

Installation Cost

A heat pump system installation cost depends on several factors such as size and type of the heat pump, installation location, rating of the energy efficiency, etc. $4000 – $20000 is the installation cost of a geothermal heat pump.

On the other hand, $1000 – $6000 is the installation cost range of an air conditioner. Air conditioner size, type, energy efficiency rating, the requirement of ductwork, etc. play a vital role in determining the cost of installing an air conditioner. You can save a few bucks by choosing an energy-efficient air conditioner model.


Lifespan is one of the essential factors of every system. Many crucial variables play a vital role in dramatically influencing the lifespan of a heat pump and air conditioner.

In terms of longevity, an air conditioner last-long for many years compared to a heat pump.

It is because heat pumps keep the home temperature cold and warm in the summer and winter, respectively. So, they are working for an entire year. In contrast, an air conditioner is getting a break in the winter months.


You can enjoy a heat pump’s service in both cold and hot seasons since the heat pump is eligible enough in delivering cold and heat. This way, it is a versatile system to give you comfort.

On the other side, an air conditioner keeps the air cool in the summer only. And in winter, they remain idle.

Whatever is your choice, it is essential to make a decision thinking about your requirement.

Both the heat pump and air conditioner deliver an efficient result.

Heat Pumps Explained – How Heat Pumps Work HVAC

Frequently Asked Question

Question: What is the best temperature for a heat pump?

Answer: In a mild climate, a heat pump system delivers the best result. It performs best as a cooling system compared to the heating system. In the warmer months, it will allow you to save energy costs. Most heat pumps engage your regular heater automatically when the outside temperature is 35°.

Question: How to choose a thermostat for a heat pump?

Answer: Before buying a thermostat for a heat pump, you should confirm that the bellow characteristics is available in your selected thermostat

  • Compatibility with the different HVAC systems
  • Easy wiring and installation process
  • Wi-Fi accessibility
  • Easy to use and control
  • Pleasing design
  • Design
  • Price should be within the range

Wrap Up

A heat pump provides you a comfortable temperature in different seasons and saves your

heating and cooling costs.

If you live in a warm and mild area, a heat pump system can be a great option to feel comfortable at home without paying too much energy bills.

Hopefully, this how does a heat pump thermostat work guideline helps you learn more information about heat pump thermostat.

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