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Air Conditioners vs. Heat Pump: The Ultimate Guide

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Have you ever woke up in the middle of the night, sweaty after tossing and turning for a few hours, only to find that the your home’s cooling system is on the fritz? If so, you’re not alone. In the event that your air conditioner or heat pump breaks down and needs to be replaced, making the decision to replace your old system with a new, more energy-efficient model can be a tough choice.

So, how do you choose which cooling system to install? There are two main options homeowners must choose between: air conditioners and heat pumps. Both will affectively cool your home and each offers its own unique benefits. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between air conditioners and heat pumps.

Heat Pumpsair-pros-image-heat-pumps

A heat pump is an all-weather solution to in-home comfort. Some people make the mistake of thinking a heat pump is only an alternative to an air conditioner, however that’s simply not the case. Heat pumps can also be used to heat your home! But, when it comes to cooling your house and keeping your family comfortable when temperatures rise, a heat pump is a viable solution.

Heat pumps cool your home based on the transfer of heat—that is, removing warm air from inside your home and dispersing the heat to the outdoors. This is different from an air conditioner in that an air conditioner simply forces cool air through your vents and into your home.

There are two types of heat pumps, air-source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps, and each differ in their efficiency levels. Heat pumps:

  • Emit very low greenhouse gas emissions
  • Offer 30 – 40 percent yearly energy savings
  • Have a lifespan of approximately 15 years
  • Operate quietly
  • Cost little to maintain
  • Can be used year-round
  • And more

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are typically a more popular in-home cooling solution than heat pumps. AC units work very similarly to a refrigerator, forcing special chemical compounds (“refrigerant”) to repeatedly evaporate and condense over and over again through a closed system of coils. When an air conditioner’s fans blow warm air over the cold, refrigerant-air-pros-image-air-conditionersfilled coils, the refrigerant absorbs heat, making it change to a gaseous state. Then, the process reverts and the refrigerant is changed back to a liquid state over a second system of coils.

This process repeats itself over and over while your air conditioner runs, using refrigerant and multiple phase conversions to chill your indoor air.

Should I Install an Air Conditioner or Heat Pump?

Now that you know the facts, it’s time to choose between installing a new air conditioner or heat pump. When making this decision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What system did I have before? – You may already have a personal preference when it comes to your cooling system.
  • How will I heat my home? – Since heat pumps can function to heat and cool a home, it is an all-in-one HVAC system. If you had a heat pump and are thinking about installing an air conditioner, consider your heating system. When replacing a heat pump with an air conditioner you may need to install a furnace to heat your home during the winter.
  • Is cost a major obstacle? – Installing a heat pump is generally more expensive than installing an air conditioner. It’s important to determine your budget constraints (if there are any) and stick to them.
  • Is efficiency important to me? – If reducing energy costs is important to you, consider installing a heat pump. Although more expensive up front, a heat pump is more energy-efficient than an air conditioner and could save you money in the long term. Be sure to check the SEER rating the new systems you are considering to determine the efficiency of your new system.