A heat pump looks and works just like an air conditioner in the summer by compressing and chilling the refrigerant that is used to cool your home. The difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump is that during cold weather a heat pump can also heat your home by reversing the cooling process.
Cooling your home happens not by by blowing cold air inside. It happens by removing heat energy from the air. The heat energy is dissipated outside. So in the winter, a heat pump works in reverse by extracting heat energy from outside air, and dissipating the heat energy to you indoor air.
Heat pumps are also great additions to a gas furnace if you’re heating with propane. Why? Because in milder winter temps, a heat pump is more efficient. Using a heat pump with a furnace is called hybrid heating, and the system will automatically switch on and off depending on the outdoor temperatures.
A heat pump requires an air handler to function. The air handler is an indoor coil and a fan motor combination that is normally split between the furnace and evaporator coil when using a furnace for heating.