A heat pump is an excellent, efficient way to control the temperature of your living space and water system. However, as it’s a relatively new addition to the house heating industry, it can sometimes be hard to locate.
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The main installation of the heat pump is generally located outside of your house, in a dry, well-ventilated area. You’ll usually find this unit mounted on one of the exterior walls of your property, near the ground.
Although this is the most common positioning for heat pumps, several other factors need to be considered before adequately locating your heating equipment. In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about locating a heat pump and much more, taking into consideration each of the system’s components and installation methods.
Heat Pump Location
Given that a heat pump system consists of two visible components, you’ll find your heating equipment both inside and outside of your house (the latter is usually considered the main installation of the system).
A heat pump’s indoor unit is located inside an exterior wall, ceiling, or floor of a central point in your house. A heat pump’s outdoor unit is located near the ground outside of your property.
The indoor unit (called the air handler) is installed inside an exterior wall that is in direct contact with the outdoors. This heat pump component connects to the outdoor unit via a refrigerant line. The two installments should never be further than 50 feet (15.24 m) apart, as connectivity issues may ensue as a result.
I usually suggest searching for the outdoor unit when trying to locate your heat pump, as the indoor components tend to vary more in their positioning. Depending on the house layout and owner’s preferences, you can find them mounted on the wall, ceiling, or floor of any room of the house that’s deemed optimal.
That said, as a rule of thumb, most indoor units are wall-mounted; you’ll rarely find a floor-mounted appliance, as it tends to be less convenient. At the same time, ceiling-mounted units are usually found in narrower areas surrounded by interior walls, such as hallways.
On the other hand, the outdoor component is usually found outside an exterior wall at the side or back of the property, ideally in a location protected by direct sunlight. It’s generally placed near or at ground level, either mounted or sitting by itself.
This positioning is chosen with accessibility in mind to make the outdoor heat pump as easy as possible to maintain and repair.
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Although this is usually the layout of the system, specific placement may vary depending on the house structure and professional judgment during the installment process. Both heat pump components need to be installed in thoroughly examined, properly-ventilated areas, as their positioning can significantly impact their overall performance.
What Does a Heat Pump Look Like?
The typical heat pump system consists of two separate parts: an outdoor unit, which looks almost exactly like a central air conditioner, and an indoor unit that looks similar to a gas furnace.
The main installation, the outdoor unit, contains the compressor, outdoor coil, reversing valve, and a fan. You’ll easily be able to spot it outside your property as it looks exactly like a central air conditioner.
In the indoor unit (or alternatively called air handler), which closely resembles a typical gas furnace, you’ll find a supplemental heater, the indoor coil, and another fan.
Finding the Ideal Location for a Heat Pump in Your House
With the external component having a more standard, easy-to-find location, sometimes it’s hard to decide the perfect position for your indoor unit.
Although you can technically position your heat pump almost anywhere inside your house, there are several factors that can significantly improve the performance and efficiency of your temperature control system.
In short, a well-ventilated, accessible, flat, and sheltered location is ideal for your heat pump to function correctly. Before deciding on the perfect positioning, make sure that the area you’re thinking of has access to a drainage system and that there are no leaks or drips right above it.
Additionally, although you’re installing your component indoors, you have to be mindful of sunlight coming through the windows. So make sure to install your unit in a sheltered location that never comes in contact with direct sunlight, as it can be highly damaging.
Another factor to consider is humidity, as some areas of the house can be more prone to it than others. You always want to install the unit in a dry space, as doing so can notably affect its efficiency and longevity.
How To Know Whether You Have a Heat Pump or an AC?
Since the main outdoor component looks exactly like a central AC, when buying or renting a new house, it may be challenging to distinguish the two and figure out which heating system is being used. This is especially true since these installments aren’t only close in appearance but also function.
To determine whether you have a heat pump or an AC, try out some of the following strategies:
- Check the labels on the unit.
- Check for an emergency heat setting.
- Check for the reversing valve.
- Listen for a noise difference.
Here’s how to go about each of these suggestions to once and for all settle whether your temperature control system is a heat pump or an air conditioner.
Check the Labels on the Unit
This is the most accurate and straightforward way to determine the type of equipment you’re dealing with, so always start with this approach before moving on to other suggestions. Take a look at the unit placed outside your home and check for any manufacturer labels.
These stickers, usually found on the side panels, generally offer additional information, including an EnergyGuide label, which can help you determine the nature of your outdoor unit.
The yellow EnergyGuide label will most likely contain all the information you need. Read through it carefully, and if you notice two different ratings, one for SEER and one for HSPF, it means your system is a heat pump.
If you can’t gather enough information from what’s written on the sticker itself, try to find the model number, write it down, and search it up on your browser. Your exact model and its specifications should immediately come up. Sometimes you’ll also need to input the brand name to get more specific results.
Check for an Emergency Heat Setting
An Emergency Heat setting is a characteristic unique to heat pumps, which allows you to start using your backup heating source in case the pump stops working. Therefore, take a look at your thermostat and search for any button labeled “Emergency” or “Em.”
In digital thermostats, you can look for these labels on your device’s screen. If you find them, you’ll know that your temperature control system is a heat pump.
If you’re still unsure or unconvinced, turn on the “Heat” mode on your thermostat and check your outdoor component to see if it turns on. If it does, it means that you have a heat pump. Make sure to feel the warm air coming through the vents before checking your unit to ensure that whatever system you’re dealing with is working.
Check for the Reversing Valve
The reverse valve is another component unique to heat pumps that you won’t find in an AC. Therefore, if, for any reason, you still aren’t convinced, try taking a look at the outdoor unit to see if you can spot the reverse valve.
First of all, make sure to turn off the whole system so the fan can stop spinning, as it can obstruct your view. Afterward, peer down the grill found on top of your heating equipment if possible and check for a horizontal bass pipe.
If you can see one, that piece is the reverse valve, and it’s a dead giveaway that you’re looking at a heat pump. On the other hand, if you can’t spot it, chances are you have an air conditioner.
With that said, the reversing valve may sometimes be hidden or hard to see, so I recommend giving the previous suggestions a try first, as they tend to be more accurate.
Listen for a Noise Difference
Lastly, you can try figuring out your heating system through the noise it makes. This is the least accurate method out of all, but it can help confirm the result of another of the previous “tests.”
Once again, set your thermostat to “Heat” mode and go outside to check if your outdoor unit is making notable noise and blowing out air. This usually is an indication that you’re using a heat pump.
Given that heat pumps are a relatively new addition to the heating system market, they can often be hard to figure out in terms of location and general characteristics. But with a few simple considerations in mind, you’ll be able to make sense of this innovative piece of equipment in no time.