One of the most common heating questions clients will ask during an inspection is, “Is that a Heat Pump or an Air Conditioner?”. It can be extremely hard to tell just by looking at the unit. Here are a few ways to identify a heat pump:
Does your Thermostat have a setting marked “Emergency Heat”? You probably have a heat pump. An emergency heat mode activates a natural gas burner or electric strips that will provide heat if there’s a problem with the heat pump, or if it can’t keep up with demand.
Take a look at the liquid and suction lines at the outdoor unit. If they’re both insulated, there’s a good chance it’s a heat pump. Note: Many heating contractors feel that this is unnecessary and won’t insulate the lines. Manufacturer’s installation instructions should always be followed.
Sometimes this is a dead giveaway. The model number may have “HP” in it, or, even more obviously, it may say “Heat Pump”. You can also record the model number and check the manufacturer’s website, or call them directly.
You may be able to see a reversing valve, however there’s a chance you may need to open the cabinet to see it. The reversing valve changes the direction of the refrigerant flow, and therefore is only found in heat pumps.
If it’s cold and the unit is running, it’s most likely a heat pump. An air conditioner running when the outdoor temperature is extremely low would indicate a serious issue.