Why Your Heat Pump Compressor Needs to Go Outdoors & Not Inside the House

Construction & Contractors Articles

The heat pump has been available for homeowners for a few decades now, but many families are only just now learning about these unusual units that provide both heating and cooling from one outdoor unit. While the air delivery vents are located in the rooms needing climate control, the compressor actually cooling and heating the air needs to stay outside your home. Don't be tempted to convince the installer to hide it in your basement or attic because choosing the wrong location reduces the efficiency of the equipment and shortens its lifespan.

How the Heat Pump Works

The heat pump uses a high-efficiency compressor, much like the one found in your refrigerator, to pull whatever heat is available from air and condense it for warming the home. Since even cold air contains a small amount of heat, you can get a surprising amount of warmth as long as outside temperatures are above about 30 degrees F. Unlike a furnace that generates heat through combustion or electrical resistance, the heat pump steals heat from the surrounding air instead.

Why You Can't Use Indoor Air

The basic functioning of the heat pump means the basement, attic, or garage simply gets colder and colder as the available heat is captured. The pump becomes inefficient pretty quickly without a steady supply of fresh air, even when that air feels cold. No amount of vents and fans can provide the same amount of fresh air flow as installing the compressor unit outside instead of trying to use it inside the house.

Of course, the heat pump won't work indoors very well for air conditioning purposes either. The process is reversed in that mode, and the equipment can only transfer so much heat from your house into the air around it. Trapping the unit in a small room that heats up quickly is sure to make your energy bills rise and your comfort levels drop. Also, the extra strain on the equipment could cause it to break down years early and with a voided warranty.

What to Consider When Choosing a Spot

Check out the manufacturer's warranty for any restrictions on where and how the compressor is installed. Aside from those requirements, consider options like

  • Picking a space where summer shade keeps the area cool but lets sun through in the winter
  • Sitting the unit on concrete blocks whenever possible instead of mounting it on the wall, which sends vibrations into the house
  • Keeping the compressor away from pathways and driveways, since it can create puddles that freeze and pose slip hazards.

Where Not to Put the Compressor

Aside from inside your home, there are a few other spots around the yard that aren't so ideal for placing the heat pump's outdoor unit. Don't sit it directly under a tree that sheds leaves or needles in the fall, since this debris blocks up the air vents and would require cleaning every few days. Shrubbery and tall grass shouldn't crowd the unit either for the same reason.

Decks and fences can cause problems for heat pumps too. If these structures create an enclosed space around the unit and block air flow, you'll see the results on your monthly electricity bills. Make sure gutters don't dump water into the unit either, which accelerates corrosion.

When It's Time for Maintenance

Consider how the technicians will access the heat pump when picking a place for it, especially since this kind of equipment needs at least one service visit a year. If you want to hide the equipment from your neighbors, leave a bare minimum of 18 inches around the unit on all sides. Two or three feet of clearance is much better for maintenance and repair access, as well as air flow.

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24 August 2015

Building our Guest House Was a Great Decision

For years, my wife and I debated on what we wanted to do with all of the spare land in the back of our house. We were lucky enough to buy a house on an extra-large lot for a great deal, but the land was "going to waste" for quite a while. One day, we finally decided to have a guest house built on it, and now that the house is finished, we wish we had built it long ago. We are now renting it out for some extra income, and it is helping us save for retirement. I have always been fascinated by construction, so I enjoyed watching the professionals build the guest house and learned a lot during the process. I decided to fill some free time by blogging about the experience and sharing some construction info I learned during the process. Come back soon!