How Do I Know If I Have an A/C or a Heat Pump?

2017 Jan 20
Posted in: Heating

Knowing whether that heating/cooling contraption sitting outside your home is an A/C or a heat pump can save you a lot of money on unnecessary service calls.

The tricky part is that it’s almost impossible to tell just from looking at it, right? Both A/Cs and heat pumps look exactly the same.

But, for the most part, you can tell whether you have an A/C or heat pump by:

  • Turning on the heat, then checking if the outside unit starts running
  • Looking at the labels on the condenser or indoor air handler
  • Checking for the reversing valve inside the condenser

We’ll walk you through each of the steps above to help you determine what kind of unit you have.

Turn on the heat and check the outside unit

The fastest way to determine whether you have a heat pump or not is to turn the heat on at your thermostat. Once you feel hot air coming through your vents, walk outside and see if the outdoor unit is running.

You see, a heat pump is an air conditioner that can also provide heat during the winter. So if the outside unit is running and producing heat, then you have a heat pump.

But let’s assume the outdoor unit is busted. You can identify if you have a heat pump through the following method.

Look at your condenser/indoor air handler labels

Every heating and cooling system comes with manufacturer and energy guide labels. And sometimes, those labels will tell you what kind of unit you have.

For example, walk outside to your condenser and look for a manufacturer label. Sometimes, the label will clearly state that the unit is a heat pump or the model number will have an “HP” at the beginning.


The product and model number of a heat pump as shown on the condenser manufacturer’s label.
Source

You can also look for the bright yellow EnergyGuide label on your unit (usually on the outside unit or indoor air handler). If you see 2 numbers, one for a “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio” and one for a “Heating Seasonal Performance Factor”, then you have a heat pump.


A heat pump EnergyGuide label will have both a SEER and a HSPF rating (as well as clearly labeling the unit as a heat pump).
Source

Since heat pumps provide both cooling and heating, they are rated according to how efficiently they cool (SEER) and how efficiently they heat (HSPF).

Can’t find any of these labels? No worries! This last method will help you for sure.

Check your condenser for a reversing valve

A heat pump has a reversing valve, a part responsible for reversing the flow of refrigerant in the system. This valve is the secret to a heat pump’s ability to cool and heat your home.

So go to your outdoor unit and peer down into the condenser. If you see a brass-looking device like the picture below, you have a heat pump. Don’t see it? Then you have an air conditioner.


Check for a brass pipe with 3 fittings on one side.
Source

Have more A/C or heat pump questions?

Do you have questions about your A/C or heat pump? Or just want to make sure your system stays in tip-top shape?

Just contact us. We provide air conditioning and heat pump repairs, maintenance and system replacements.

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