What Is the Difference Between Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners?
An air conditioner cools by moving hot air out through a refrigerated coil, thus leaving behind cooler spaces. A heat pump draws hot air in through the same circular flow as the heated element. Both use air that is already there, not creating cold or hot air.
All Temp offers both and will keep them serviced for your convenience. New homeowners may think that space heaters will do the trick for some cold days. However, they have to balance the heat against the electricity bill for those few days. All Temp has carrier heat pumps or air conditioners with heat coils for you that are much more efficient & cost less to operate.
Air conditioners lose out to heat pumps in terms of the range of applicability for HVAC systems when you compare heats pumps vs. air conditioners. Heat pumps can serve as the heating unit for a building, while air conditioners can only be used for cooling.
A heat pump consists of a device that alters the travel of the refrigerant through various system components, called a reversing valve, which makes it possible for heat pumps to act as heaters as well. What happens inside a heat pump during heating mode is as if the device is trying to condition outsides air by absorbing its heat and releasing it into the interiors.
Therefore, it can be inferred that one should pay attention to the fact that heat pumps may not work efficiently when the outside temperature is too low. Of course, there is an electric heatings element outside to help heat the refrigerant, but they are not very energy efficient.
Therefore, there may be a need to combine an air conditioner with a furnace for better air distribution in severe climatic conditions.
Think of a heat pump as a type of combination unit. It uses something we refer to as a reversible technology to circulate heat or air, depending on the season in which you are using it. When it’s hot outside during the late spring and summer, heat pumps can operate just like your standard air conditioning unit.
They draw warm air from inside your space, cool it, and then circulate it back into your home to make it cool and comfortable. With a name like “heat pump,” most people wouldn’t expect that it can even cool your home.
Let’s first see how your traditional air conditioners work. As simple as the ideas of air conditioners may sound, there are some common misconceptions about how air conditioning units work to keep your home cool. Your standard air conditioners are designed to take the hot air out of your home or from the buildings to which it is attached.
It draws that air into its condensing unit, where the refrigerant in your air conditioning unit cools it. After cooling the air, it pumps that cool air back through the ventilation system in your area. You can think of it as a two-step process of cooling your space by pulling warm air out, cooling that air, and recirculating that cold air into your area.
In terms of structure, your AC unit’s air condenser is located inside your area, and the compressor can be found outside your room. Since the air conditioning unit itself can only blow cold air into your area, homes with their own AC systems require a separate furnace or heating unit that will heat your home, keeping it warm on cold days and cold days. Will keep warm and comfortable Winter months of the year.
Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners:
In many ways, heats pumps are functionally similar to conventional air conditioners. The only real differences are that a heat pump can reverse itself so that it can provide heat when needed. So basically, it’s an airs conditioner that can reverse itself.
Think of an air conditioner as a heat pump that can only pump heat in one direction from the inside to the outside. Although we might technically call an air conditioner a heat pump, the term “heat pump” is more commonly used to refer to an HVAC system that can pump heat in or out.
Heat pumps are a machine that can pump heat in both directions—inside to outside cooling and outside to inside heating. Air conditioners, heat pumps & refrigerators all use a similar process to transfer heat energy. If you’ve taken ever looked at the back of your refrigerator, you may have noticed that the coils can be hot to the touch.
This is where the heat escapes from inside the refrigerator. Although many people think that air conditioners & refrigerators add cool air to indoor spaces, they actually subtract heat from the air.
They are absorbing heat inside and then releasing it outside.
By doing this, the air inside cools down. Therefore, while a heat pump inverts itself to heat your home, it is functionally air conditioning the outdoor environment by extracting heat from outdoor spaces and transferring it indoors. You may be asking yourselves, how can a heat pump extract heat from the outside during winters months when you need heating the most.
Well, let’s say your freezer is very cold, but it is still able to transfer heat from the cold inside environment to the rear coil. There is still heat energy in the cold environment. The temperature must be too cold for this process to not work.
Working Principle of Heat Pumps Vs. Air Conditioners:
When it comes to comparing heat pumps vs air conditioners in terms of their working principle, you can see that’s they are very similar. In both of these devices, refrigerants fluid, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an evaporator are responsible for making the process of air conditioning possibles. For both of these devices, the refrigerants experience an increase in pressure and temperature in the compressor.
This high-temperature refrigerant is cooled and condensed in the condensing coil as the heat is reduced to the ambient air flowing through the coil. Then this cold refrigerant is carried into the evaporator coil, it expands and evaporates, absorbing heat from the insides of air flowing over the evaporators coil.
Despite what is common to both when comparing heat pump vs air conditioner, this working principle does not suggest that they both perform the same function. Based on this principle, both the air conditioner and the heat pump can provide cooling.
Evaporators coils will be placed inside the conditioned area, while the condensing coil will be placed outside, leading to the cooling process. However, there is a mechanism within heat pumps that reverses this thermodynamic cycle and also provides heating to them, whereas this is not the case for air conditioners.
Cost of Owning Heat Pumps Vs. Air Conditioners:
The initial cost of purchasing a conventional heat pump may not be so much as that of an air conditioner, which can be tempting when looking for an integrated system. However, you should keep in mind that heat pumps are more prone to wear and tear due to their year-round operation than air conditioners. This can lead to high operation and maintenance costs.
When considering the cost of owning a heat pump versus an air conditioner, you need to consider the site and its climatic conditions to arrive at a reasonable cost estimate for both cases.
In moderate climates, heat pumps may be the better solution for your HVAC system, while in places where temperatures outside can get very cold, an air conditioner paired with a furnace will be a better option. You can get a better cost estimate by talking to a professional.
The Efficiency of Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners:
Since air conditioners do only cooling, we need to compare the cooling efficiency of heat pump vs air conditioner while comparing their performances. Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios or SEER is a measure of how well a cooling system operates.
This measure is calculated by dividings the total provided cooling of the system in BTU by the amount of power consumption of the systems in Watts. It is clear that we want systems that provide more cooling while consuming less power; Hence, a higher SEER score.
Since both follow the same refrigeration cycle during cooling, they do pretty much the same job in terms of efficiency. However, for the same cost, air conditioners can have a slightly higher SEER score than heat pumps.
These are naturally not the only factors that help in the proper choice; Heat pumps can also operate in heating mode while air conditioners cannot. This means they can be more economical than air conditioners.
Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners Operation:
First and foremost, in order to decide on an air conditioner vs heat pump, you need to know how each system works. There are lots of misconceptions about how air conditioners operate—many Louisville homeowners mistakenly believe they produce some sort of coolant that cools the air.
This is probably because furnaces generate heat to heat the house. In fact, an air conditioner doesn’t create some icy conditions that make the air cooler. Its process is simplers than that – it moves heat from one area to another. How does an air conditioner conduct heat, you ask? Well, the process is as follows:
- Hot air from your home is circulated to the internal components of the cooling system.
- Hot air passes over the evaporator coil.
- The refrigerant inside the coil draws heat out of the air.
- The refrigerant travels through the lines to the external components and is pressurized by the compressor.
- The refrigerant moves into the condenser coil, which allows the heat to pass into the surrounding outside air.
So, an air conditioner moves the heat out of your living areas to cool your home. It does not produce ices or extremely cold temperatures and cools the air. Now that you know how an air conditioners works let us bring you the big secret – heat pumps for cooling work the same way! They also move heat from inside your homes to areas outsides of houses.
There are two types of heat pump: air sources & geothermal. Air sources heats pump to move heat from one air source to another, from the inside to the outside. Geothermal systems move heat from the insides of the air of your home into the ground, where it is stored. Or they store the heat in the water source.
Geothermal systems require an additional component to function – a ground loop. It is made up of connected piping that is filled with fluid, which carries heat away from the house and stores it under your yard. When it comes to cooling, during Louisville’s hot summer, all heat pumps and air conditioners use the same process you get indoors, depending on the cooler temperatures.
Heating of Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners:
Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners heating There is no question because the air conditioner simply cannot heat your home. The air conditioning systems are only useful during the warmer months. As temperatures drop, homeowners turn off their air conditioners and use heating systems such as furnaces for heat. Unlike air conditioners, a heat pump also provides homes heating! How is this possible? The process of a heat pump is reversed and goes like this:
- Condenser coils remove heat from the outside air, which is absorbed through the refrigerant.
- The refrigerant moves into the evaporator coils in the indoor system components.
- Heat energy is emitted from the evaporator’s coils & mixed with the air circulating through the system.
This process adds heat to the air inside your home. Geothermal heat pumps work in the same way that an air source heat pump does, except that they remove heat from the ground below or from a water source, not the air outside. With heat pumps, you have two systems in one – both your heating & cooling needs are conquered by one unit. While you have an air conditioner, if you want to heat in the winter, you must also have a heating system.
Many Louisville homeowner chooses the furnaces for this purpose. If you’re looking’s for a system to do it all, there’s no question about air conditioner versus heat pump—the heat pump wins. Simply put, air conditioners are only for cooling.
Energy Efficiency of Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners
Energy efficiency in your choice among air conditioner versus heating pump is a big concern because your system is consumed more energy-efficient, low energy, which keeps low utility bills.
Air conditioner and heat pump measure efficiency using Sear, which stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. An air conditioner versus a heating pump with the same Sierre rating uses an equal amount of energy for cool homes in ideal circumstances.
Now, air conditioners participate in problems when the outdoor temperature is very high. See, the air conditioning system is designed to cool your home adequately when the difference in indoor and outdoor temperature is not more than 20 degrees. During the summer, the temperature can climb up from this point. When this happens, your air conditioners are unable to run efficiently while cooling your home.
On the other hand, heat pumps have no problem with high outdoor temperatures. Whether they provide the same efficiency cooling, no matter whether the temperature difference between the indoor and outside is small or huge. In ideal outdoor circumstances, air conditioner versus heat pump efficiency is also beautiful. The big jump in energy efficiency occurs when the heating mode is used.
Both types of heat pumps are much more efficient than air conditioners, furnaces, and other types of heating systems. Efficiencies of an air sources heat pump are between 175 and 300 percent, while the efficiency of the geothermal thermal pump is between 300 and 600 percent.
It means consuming equipment for every unit of electricity; they produce more units of heating.
Now, the air source heat pump is not a great heating source when the outdoor temperature falls below approximately 25 to 30 degrees.
Generally, it is not such a problem for Louisville landlords, but we sometimes get a very cold day. These days, if you have a backup heating system in your home, then you want to use it because it is more efficient than your heat pump when these temperatures face extremes.
Price of Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners:
It’s no secret that prices are an important factor when you decide between Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners. The HVAC system is not a light investment for many Louisville area homeowners! Let’s take a looks at what you can expect with pricing on air conditioners versus heat pumps.
Your most economical option is usually going to be an air source heat pump. Next comes an air conditioner. Mosts expensive cooling system is a geothermal heat pump system. Air source heat pumps & air conditioners range from a few to several thousand dollars to install, depending on the model.
Geothermal systems are around $10,000 on the low end and $30,000+ on the high end, with ground loop systems being the biggest expense of these systems. Now remember, with geothermal systems, you don’t really need backup heating systems.
With an air source heats pump, you can. With an air conditioner, you absolutely do. Backup heating equipment or primary heating system expenses add up when you upgrade your Louisville home’s HVAC system.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Heat Pumps:
One of the best aspects of heat pumps is that they are incredibly energy efficient. Since they work to move ambient heat from outside your home to the inside of your home, heat pumps don’t have to work as hard to heat the air as other heating units. As you may have read, another great aspect of using a heat pump is that it is a complete solution.
It saves some space and holds all your heating and cooling needs in one compact device. This also comes in handy when you need maintenance on your unit. However, there are some obvious disadvantages to having a heat pump. Since they draw ambient heat from the cold outside air to heat your area, heat pumps aren’t nearly as effective in brutally cold climates.
They are far better in parts of the country with moderate or mild winters. Since the technology on them is more compact and advanced, the units themselves, as well as the installation, can be significantly more expensive than AC units.
Heat pumps also wear out and burn out faster than AC units. Since you’ll be using the same unit year-round, their components may suffer wear and tear more quickly.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Air Conditioning Units:
Broadly speaking, we see that the air conditioning unit has a longer viable working life than heat pumps. The main reason is that you only run your air conditioning unit for half a year, depending on where you live, which roughly doubles the viable amount of use before your air conditioning unit needs to be repaired.
Because they are simplers in design than heats pumps, AC units are also more economical and cheaper to install than their heat pumps counterparts. If you have just one AC unit, you will need a separate heating unit or furnace to heat your area during the winter months.
One drawback of AC units is that they can be expensive, depending on the area you live in and the cost of electricity. AC units require a lot of power to be able to cool and circulate the air.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners for all climates. Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer.
Air Conditioner Replacement Cost
HVAC replacement cost can range from a minimum of $3,200 to a maximum of $12,500, which would include the installation of both a new central AC unit and gas furnace combo, along with the labor work. If you need to replace ductwork as well, you can expect an additional $2,100 for a single-story 2,000 sq. ft home.
Heat Pumps VS Air Conditioners
A heat pump can heat and cool, but an air conditioner cannot, which is the primary difference between the two HVAC systems. An air conditioner is typically paired with a furnace to provide heat during the cold months.