What Is Similar Between a Heat Pump and An Air Conditioner?

Looking for a reliable HVAC system for your home? The good news is that there are a couple of options and you can choose between installing a heat pump or an air conditioner. People often wonder what the difference is between these two systems, but the truth is they are very similar. Both use compressed refrigeration to suck in the air inside your home and release it outdoors.

Many people mistakenly think that air conditioners produce cold air but that is not the case. Air conditioners keep your home cool by eliminating the heat from the air that is inside your home and releasing that air outside. By pumping the warm air out of the home, you’re left with cool air inside the home. A heat pump performs the same function. In fact, heat pumps and air conditioners are so similar that it can be hard to tell the two apart based on appearance.

What Is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and An Air Conditioner?

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While both heat pumps and air conditioners have the same cooling method, their heating ability is very different. Air conditioners are singular in function – they cool down a room but do not provide any heating whatsoever. A heat pump, on the other hand, has this ability. It contains a reversing valve that allows the pump to absorb heat from the air outside and then transfers the heat into the home. It can do this even in frigid temperatures.

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So a heat pump has a dual function and is able to heat and cool air inside the home while an air conditioner can only cool air. This is the main difference between heat pumps and air conditioners.

In order to heat the air instead a home, air conditioners are often installed along with a furnace that will provide heat during the winter, forming a complete heating and cooling system.

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Heat pumps work well when it comes to heating a home, however, when temperatures drop to below freezing, heat pumps require more energy to keep the temperatures inside the home warm. To address this issue, heat pumps often come equipped with an axillary electric heater that is attached to the part of unit that is inside the home. This provides additional heat when temperatures outside fall to below freezing. However, it’s important to note that an axillary electric heater does not provide the best performance. So if you live in an area where temperatures often fall below freezing during the winter months, it’s best to couple this system with a furnace that will kick in automatically when necessary.

Which System Is Right for You?

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When choosing the heating and cooling system for your home, the decision between air conditioner vs heat pump can seem difficult, but once you know what your needs and priorities are, it will be easier to make a sound decision. A heat pump and an air conditioner are both efficient HVAC systems that homeowners can rely on to keep their homes comfortable.

So which system wins the heat pump/air conditioning war? Determining the best choice for your home will depend on a number of things like the cost to purchase and install the system, the cost to run it and the lifespan expectancy of the unit.

Cost of purchase and installation

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A heat pump consists of an outdoor and indoor unit. The indoor unit comes at a lower cost while the outdoor unit comes with a higher price tag upfront then an air conditioner. Whenever you are determining whether to install a heat pump or air conditioner, remember to look at the overall cost of each system, including the cost of installation.

Cost to operate

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In mild winter temperatures, a heat pump is a great option because it relies on electricity instead of other types of fuel like natural gas, oil or propane, which tend to be more expensive. But keep in mind that a heat pump requires more energy to heat your home when the temperatures fall below freezing, meaning you will have a higher electric bill. This problem can be combated by adding a furnace as a secondary system, although it’s a higher cost upfront to have a dual system then it is to have an air conditioner and furnace, which is a more popular combination.


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The lifespan of a HVAC system is important to consider when determining the best choice for your home. There are some systems that cost more upfront but last longer than another system that may be cheaper to purchase and install. The life expectancy of an HVAC system depends on several variables, however, typically, air conditioning units outlast heat pumps. This is because heat pumps offer dual performance and are designed to function year-round – providing heat in cooler months and cool air in warmer months. Air conditioners are not used for a good portion of the year when temperatures are cooler outside, giving the system time to rest.

Remember, heat pumps use less energy to function so overtime, you may experience some savings by installing a heat pump vs air conditioner. Contect Us Today!