How Do I Know if I Have a Heat Pump or an AC?

May 11, 2017

Not sure if that big metal box sitting outside your home is a heat pump or a straight air conditioner?

3 ways to tell the difference between a heat pump and an AC include:

  1. Turn on the heat (and see if the unit runs)

  2. Check for a reversing valve in the outdoor unit

  3. Check the unit’s labels

We’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to do all of those.

1. Turn on the heat

The main difference between a heat pump and a straight AC is that a heat pump can provide heat. So head over to your thermostat and make sure the knob is set to HEAT not COOL.

Turn Heat On To See If You Have A Heat Pump Vs Ac

Now, make sure that the set temperature is higher than the current room temperature and wait a few minutes. If you hear the unit kick on and deliver warm air from the vents, you have a heat pump.

If it doesn’t come on, you most likely have a straight air conditioner.

2. Check for a reversing valve

A heat pump can reverse the flow of refrigerant to switch between cooling and heating by using a “reverse valve”.

To see if your system has a reverse valve, head out to your outdoor unit and look through the fins of the condenser. If you see this copper-looking device, you have a heat pump:


If you don’t see this device, you most likely have an air conditioner.

3. Check the labels

Your unit, whether it’s an AC or heat pump, should have 2 labels that will help you determine what kind of system you have:

1. The yellow EnergyGuide label

Where is it: Usually this label can be found on the outdoor unit or indoor air handler

What to look for: Just under the big “EnergyGuide” title, your unit will be listed as either a “Central Air Conditioner” or a “Heat Pump”.

You can also tell what kind of unit you have by checking for the kinds of ratings the label shows:

  • If you have an air conditioner, the only rating you’ll see is the SEER rating

  • If you have a heat pump, you’ll see both a SEER rating and an HSPF rating (see below)


2. The manufacturer label

Where is it: Outdoor unit (condenser)

What to look for: Sometimes, the manufacturer label will clearly mark whether your unit is an AC or a heat pump. See the images below.

Note: Some manufacturer labels are less clear about this so use this option as a last resort.


Some heat pumps have an “HP” in their product and model number.Source

Still not sure? Ask our Kansas City techs

If you still can’t determine what kind of system you have, feel free to contact us.

We can answer this (and all your other AC/heat pump questions)

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