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

Did you know that you have more than one option regarding HVAC appliances available on the market today that can cool your home? Most people associate cooling with an air conditioner, but a heat pump can also cool a building just as effectively without using as much energy to do so.
If you’re building a home, or upgrading your current one and are curious about the differences between a heat pump and an air conditioner, the team at Hans Heating and Air has the answers to your questions. We’ll discuss how each system works, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how to decide which HVAC system would be best for you in your Montgomery, AL home.

How Do These Cooling Systems Work?

Heat pumps and air conditioning systems work to cool your home, and they do it in similar ways.

Air conditioning units and heat pumps work by extracting the heat from a space and transferring it outdoors. They don’t chill the air somehow; that is a common misconception. Air circulates through an indoor unit and is cooled down as it passes over the evaporator coils, which absorbs the heat from the air to lower the temperature. This process causes the refrigerant to warm up and convert into a gaseous form that travels through the refrigerant lines toward the compressor in the outdoor unit.

There are two common kinds of heat pumps; air source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps. Air source heat pumps rely on the heat from the air outside, while ground source heat pumps rely on the constant heat in the ground, about 6-10 feet below the surface of the earth. Both units are very efficient based on their SEER ratings and cost about the same in energy costs.

Pros and Cons Of Both Systems

Both systems will cool your home efficiently and quickly, but heat pumps do have one clear advantage that air conditioners don’t: they can also heat your home. Heat pumps work in reverse in the winter months, whereas air conditioners can only cool your home. In Alabama, heat pumps are very common because of the frequent high temperatures and humidity. Heat pumps can lose their efficiency in extremely cold climates, but that’s not often a concern in the southern United States.

Heat pumps can be more efficient than air conditioners, but air conditioning will cool your home faster. Both are capable of dehumidifying as well. Air conditioners tend to have cheaper installation, maintenance, and repairs. Heat pumps require both an indoor and outdoor unit to cool your home, but they don’t require ductwork which can improve your indoor air quality.

Which System Is Best For Me?

Now that you know the major differences between heat pumps and air conditioners, you might try to figure out which one you should have installed in your home. It all depends on personal preference.

You Should Pick a Heat Pump If…

  • You live in a warm climate and will need to run your cooling system for many months out of the year.
  • If your home does not have air ducts, or you are retrofitting an older home, a heat pump transfers cool air through a conduit. Indoor air quality is often better with a heat pump system because of this.
  • When paired with ductless mini splits, you can create temperature zones in your home. You can turn off the cool air in an unoccupied zone so you don’t waste energy.
  • Heat pumps do not burn fossil fuels to heat a home, making your home’s comfort system better for the environment.

You Should Pick an Air Conditioning System If…

  • Lower initial cost and installation is a concern. You’ll need to pay less upfront when you have an air conditioner installed.
  • Colder climates are better suited for air conditioning systems because heat pumps tend to struggle to heat homes in colder climates
  • Because heat pumps can run year long, air conditioning units tend to last longer since they aren’t used as often, resulting in less stress on the system.

Hans Can Install a Heat Pump or an AC at Your Home

No matter which cooling system you choose, you can count on Hans Heating and Air for installation, maintenance, and repairs for both air conditioners and heat pumps. Talk to the professionals at Hans today to help you decide which system works best for your Montgomery, AL home.

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