Determining Where to Install Heat Pumps

Determining Where to Install Heat Pumps

Small Projects and Repairs
Technology
By Alex Mikayelyan March 25, 2022

Heat pumps are an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. Don’t get their name confused, though; they don’t simply heat up homes, they can also cool them as well. But regardless of how you use your heat pumps, placement is key when it comes to having an efficiently functioning heating and cooling system in your home.

Getting the location of your heat pump just right could mean the difference between one that can effectively heat or cool your home, and one that just doesn’t seem to work properly. A number of tips can help you pick the right spots for your mini-split heat pump.

What Are Heat Pumps?

What are mini-split heat pumps?

What are mini-split heat pumps?

Before getting into the intricacies of heat pump placement, it’s important to first understand how heat pumps work and what they actually do. Understanding how they work could help when adjusting their placement, so you’ll have a much better idea of what you’ll be working with.

Air source heat pumps have two modes: heating and cooling. During the winter, when the heating mode is turned on, the heat pump will capture air from the outside and will heat it up using a compressor. The heat is then transferred to the interior heat pump, where it will then spread the heat throughout the house. While this is happening, the heat pump on the inside will also capture cool air and push it outside through the outdoor heat pump, ensuring that cold air does not remain indoors.

During the summer, when the cooling is on, the opposite takes place. Warm air from the outside is cooled and transferred to the interior. The warm air from the inside is transferred to the exterior, where it is then dispersed into the outside air. Keep in mind that there are far more intricacies to how electric heat pumps work and not everything is as clear-cut as this explanation. However, what this explanation does highlight are the various parts that make heat pumps tick — more specifically the indoor and outdoor units.

Outdoor Heat Pump Unit

What placement factors to consider for an outdoor heat pump unit

What placement factors to consider for an outdoor heat pump unit

The outdoor component of your heat pump is what’s going to be taking in the air from outside. This makes it crucial that certain key factors are taken into consideration when installing the heat pump, to ensure that the component works as intended.

Grounded or Wall-Mounted

Where can outdoor heat pumps be installed?

Where can outdoor heat pumps be installed?

There are two types of outdoor heat pumps: ground and wall-mounted. The ground heat pumps sit on a specially designed concrete slab that raises them above the ground to keep them safe from the natural elements. Wall-mounted units, as the name implies, are mounted onto the exterior of your home.

Both types of outdoor heat pumps work great and the only reason why you should get one over the other purely depends on how much landscape you have around your home. For example, if you don’t have enough room in your landscape because the fence is quite close to the building, it would be wiser to install a wall-mounted unit. However, if you have a spacious backyard and enough room to place the outdoor heat pump unit away from the house so it receives airflow from all sides, then consider a grounded one. 

Airflow

Airflow is crucial for heat pumps

Airflow is crucial for heat pumps

Airflow is the key to making your heat pump work properly. After all, it’s airflow that makes the entire system work in the first place. Lack of airflow means that there is a lack of heating or cooling. Also, if the outdoor unit does not have enough airflow, you may even risk damaging some of its components.

When it comes to considering airflow, place the outdoor unit of the heat pump in an area where air can travel unimpeded. Ensure that there are few to no solid obstructions around the heat pump for as much airflow as possible. 

Sunlight and Moisture

While outdoor heat pump units are typically made to last, there are several factors that contribute to their longevity. For example, sunlight has a way of slowly chipping away at just about anything you indefinitely leave outside. While the shielding around outdoor heat pump units is made to withstand even the most powerful of the sun’s rays, this does not mean they are completely invulnerable.

So, a good placement for outdoor heat pump units is somewhere with shade, preferably the exterior wall that can protect the pump from direct sunlight. Placing a heat pump directly next to your home, however, presents a different kind of risk — runoff water. The gutters that line your roof transport rainwater safely to the ground. It’s important to consider their layout when choosing a heat pump placement as you don’t want to have it in a place where water can flow to it directly. Again, heat pump shielding is made to last, but a rain cap can go a long way in making it last longer. So to avoid more complicated heat pump maintenance, give it proper protection from the elements.

Indoor Heat Pump Unit

There are many indoor heat pump placement options.

There are many indoor heat pump placement options.

Let’s not forget the indoor heat pumps, which consist of the installation that will be transporting the heat or cool air from the outside into your home. Much like how getting the placement of the exterior component can improve the efficiency of your heat pump, so can the interior component.

Surrounding Space

Obstructions can also be a problem for the interior component of your heat pump system as well. Placing the interior heating pump within the range of other objects, like shelves, furniture, and just about anything else that could obstruct airflow is a very bad idea. You need the air to go to and from the indoor heat pump, so the more you block the surrounding space, the more stress you put on it.

Height

The height of heat pump evaporators can affect your interior.

The height of heat pump evaporators can affect your interior.

In case you don’t remember from physics class in school, here is a friendly reminder that heat rises. This means that where you place it on the wall will have a significant impact on which areas get heated up and cooled. For example, many homeowners will install the evaporator or interior component of the heat pump, high up on the wall, similar to an air conditioner. This means that the floor above will be heated, as will the room the evaporator is in. However, the room below will not receive as much heat, since warm air travels to the floor above.


The opposite is true in the summer, with the room below — such as a renovated basement — receiving more heat than the room above. So, consider these factors when installing your evaporator. The difference in how much your home gets heated or cooled could be staggering given the right circumstances. So, be very mindful of how high you’re installing the evaporator. You need it to cover as much of your home as possible. If you really don’t want to take any chances and want the most optimal setup for your indoor heat pump evaporators, then consider hiring an HVAC engineer to give you some helpful insight.

Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan