How can I tell whether the condenser (outdoor unit) is an air conditioner or heat pump?

Friday, June 15, 2018

A condenser that only cools is called a “straight cool” unit, and there are several ways to tell the difference between a heat pump and straight cool condenser. Probably the easiest method is to check near the bottom of the data plate on the side of the condenser for the words “HEAT PUMP,” or “CENTRAL COOLING AIR CONDITIONER“ or “CONDENSING UNIT” for straight cool air conditioners.

    A second way to figure it out is to Google manufacturer’s name and the model number from the data plate, which will usually tell you what type of unit you have, as shown below. Both these methods assume that your data plate is still intact and readable, which is sometimes not the case for an older machine.

    If the data plate is no longer legible, you can look through the top grille into the center of the condenser for a horizontal brass tube, like the one shown below. It’s the reversing valve, which switches the direction of refrigerant flow to to change from cooling to heating, and will only be seen in a heat pump. Usually, the reversing valve is readily visible, but some manufacturers conceal it behind an access panel. So the presence of a reversing valve indicates that you definitely have a heat pump but, if you don’t see one, it doesn’t automatically mean the unit is a cooling condenser. Onward to a fourth strategy.

     Put the thermostat at “HEAT” and raise the setting ten degrees above the current room temperature. Make sure it is not set at “EHEAT” or “EMER HEAT.” Then, after you feel heat coming out of the registers (vents), go outside and see if the condenser if running. There may be a few minutes time delay for the system to turn on. When you have a heat pump, it will be operating and blowing cold air. If silent, then you have a cooling air conditioner with a heat strip in the air handler. 

    Also, see our blog post What is the canister thing about size of a small soda can on a refrigerant line near the heat pump or air conditioner condenser (outdoor unit)?

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

  To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these other blog posts:

How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? 

My air conditioner won't turn on. What's wrong? 

How can I find out the size of my air conditioner? 

How can I tell whether the condenser (outdoor unit) is an air conditioner or heat pump? 

Where is the air filter for my central air conditioner and furnace? I can’t find it? 

Does an old air conditioner use more electricity as it ages? 

How did homes stay cool in Florida before air conditioning? 

What is wrong with an air conditioner when the air flow out of the vents is low?

Why has the thermostat screen gone blank? 

Why does it take so long to cool a house when an air conditioner has been off for a while? 

Why is my air conditioner not cooling enough? 

What are the most common problems with wall/window air conditioners?  

Will closing doors reduce my heating and cooling costs? 

   Visit our HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

Water Heaters

Water Heater Age

Wells

Septic Tank Systems

Structure and Rooms

Plumbing Pipes

Termites, Wood Rot

& Pests

Sinkholes

Stairs

When It First

Became Code

"Should I Buy A..."

Park Model Homes

Site

Shingle Roofs

Safety

Stucco

Remodeling

Wind Mitigation Form

Roof and Attic

"Does A Home

Inspector...?"

Pool and Spa

"What Is The Difference Between..."

Radon

Brick

Plumbing

Concrete and

Concrete Block

Metal Roofs

Foundations

Modular Homes

Rain Gutters

Mold, Lead & Other Contaminants

Condominiums

Older and

Historic Houses

Crawl Spaces

Mobile/Manufactured Homes

Building Permits

Life Expectancy

Clay Soil

Insurance

Floors

Insulation

Toilets

Exterior Walls & Structures

Generators

Common Problems

HUD-Code for

Mobile Homes

Garages and Carports

Flat (Low Slope) Roofs

Electrical Panels

Sprinkler Systems

Electrical Receptacle Outlets

4-Point Inspections

Hurricane Resistance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Home Inspection

Heating and Air Conditioning

Building Codes

Fireplaces and Chimneys

Inspector Licensing

& Standards

Energy Efficiency

Washers and Dryers

Electrical

Kitchens

Doors and Windows

(placeholder)

Cracks

Electrical Wiring

Click Below  

for Links

to Collections

of Blog Posts

by Subject

Plumbing Drains

and Traps

Appliances

Smoke & CO Alarms

Aging in Place

Top 5 results given instantly.

Click on magnifying glass

for all search results.

Bathrooms

Lighting

AFCI, CAFCI,

DFCI, & GFCI

Sinks

Air Conditioner & Furnace Age/Size

Attics

Electrical Switches

Siding

Search

This

Site

Water Intrusion

Electrical - Old

and Obsolete

(placeholder)

Foundation Certifications

Tiny Houses

How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes

About Us