Informational Guide

Heat Pump Vs AC Compared

We will guide you on the pros & cons of AC units, cooling and home heating.

by Ian Haynes

When the goal is to get relief from the scorching heat, you need to get either an air conditioner or a heat pump. However, when buying or replacing an HVAC system, you should research before making the purchase.

The purchase decision gets a bit confusing when the choice is between heat pump or air conditioner. However, you don’t have to worry about this anymore because we have prepared a descriptive guide to clarify all your inhibitions, helping you make the right decision.

An air conditioner is a lot like a refrigerator as it has similar components. It has a compressor and a refrigerant, and it cools the space using gas.

However, most central AC brands – excluding portable and window ACs types –  come with one outdoor unit and one indoor unit. The outdoor unit emits heat while the indoor unit spreads out cooling gas.

Moreover, it works using a heat transfer mechanism, removing heat from the room to the outside while providing cold air.

The indoor unit has a blower the pushes the cooling air and ensures it covers the whole area. On the other hand, the outdoor unit has AC compressors attached to an evaporator coil.

Commercial Split Type Air Conditioner on Wall
Benefits
  • Less noisy in comparison to heat pumps
  • Comparatively energy efficient
  • Some types can purify the air and eliminate allergens
  • Less upfront cost
Negatives
  • Not the best heating unit
  • High electricity bills if excessively used

Pros And Cons Of Heat Pumps

The functions of a heat pump & AC are more or less similar. However, heat pumps have one additional feature that regular types of AC’s don’t: heating mode.

Heat pumps can be used in summers for cooling and winters for heating. Like an AC, heat pumps transfer heat from the room to the outside, making it cooler.

However, heat pumps have additional components like an oil heater, air blower, radiator, and in most cases, a ground loop to facilitate heating. You can check out our favorite heat pump types below.

Window heat pumps

Mini-split heat pumps

Heat Pumps to be Installed
Benefits
  • Don’t require fossil fuels to function, making them highly efficient
  • They can be used all year long because they have heating as well as cooling modes
  • Heat pumps don’t create heat. They only transfer it from one place to another. Therefore, they don’t require a furnace
  • They work using electricity. If properly maintained, they consume less electricity and provide more heat/cooling
Negatives
  • In colder regions where temperatures frequently fall below freezing, Heat pumps are less effective
  • High upfront cost. People who don’t need heating features usually don’t opt for heat pumps

Heat Pump Vs Air Conditioners (Home HVAC Comparison)

Many people think that the room heater and air conditioner debate is insignificant because they both cool the house using the exact mechanism. This is true to some extent.

However, some significant differences will impact your purchase decision. To clarify the contextualize the heat pump vs AC debate, we have jotted down some key differences:

Heating

The first and most prominent difference is that as long as the weather is hot, the AC is your best friend, but once the temperature falls below 40, you need a new friend because an AC doesn’t provide home heating.

In this case, the heat pump reigns supreme as it allows cooling and heating services.

On the other hand, because ACs are a more common fixture in households, repairers and maintenance people are better armed to fix them; furthermore, spare parts and replacements are easier to find.

Energy Consumption and Efficiency

In the comparison of heat pumps and air conditioners, the next factor to consider is energy consumption. Efficiency and consumption are among the first few things that come to buyers’ minds when adding new appliances to their homes.

However, both of them are almost similar in this area. It means we have a tie in this section.

But because there are multiple models for either appliance, it is integral to check the SEER ratings and decide according to how efficient you want your daily electricity usage.

Cost

Cost plays a significant role In the heat pump vs air conditioner debate. There are multiple costs to consider while making a purchase decision: the price, installation cost, maintenance cost, and consumption cost.

In this case, air conditioners are less expensive, as they require a less upfront cost. But if you want adequate heating during winters, you need to install a furnace too, which significantly increases the upfront cost.

On the other hand, heat pumps come pre-built with heating and cooling systems, making them comparatively less expensive to install.

Heat Pump Or ACs (Which Is Better In Your Location)

When looking for heat pumps vs. air conditioners, it is obvious to consider your location. The weather and the atmosphere play a huge role in the efficiency of both the equipment.

Florida

The debate of air conditioners vs. heat pumps in Florida has a clear winner. When the goal is to beat Florida heat, air conditioners and heat pumps are both excellent. However, the heat pump is a clear victor for Florida.

Oregon

Most people in Oregon go for neither heat pumps nor air conditioners. Hence, the choice between a heat pump vs. air conditioner in Oregon doesn’t sway either way.

Instead, Oregon residents choose a gas furnace for heating purposes. However, heat pumps can be seen in some households.

Texas

Many people in Texas believe that furnace is the right choice for heating homes. However, we beg to differ. Undoubtedly, furnaces can produce more heat, but heat pumps can also do a fine job of heating your home alongside cooling it during the inevitable Texan heatwave.

Moreover, it is more efficient because it works on electricity while most furnaces use fossil fuel.

New York

When choosing between heat pumps vs central AC, New Yorkers usually go with heat pumps that can easily deal with cold and warm weather. This is because they offer cooling, heating, and dehumidifying, which is effectively all-weather coverage.

For example, New Yorkers like to go out in the summer and engage in outdoor activities. Therefore a heat pump with both cooling and heating options is preferred over air conditioners.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

What Is Cheaper To Run A Heat Pump Or Gas Furnace?

Both heat pumps and air conditioners run on electricity and are almost equally efficient. However, for heating, AC’s need furnaces while heat pumps don’t, making them more efficient to use.

At What Temperature Do Heat Pumps Become Ineffective?

Heat pumps lose efficiency when the outside temperature goes below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, for temperatures above 40, heat pumps work excellently and prove to be a reliable source of heating/cooling.

Do You Still Need A Furnace With A Heat Pump?

Unlike air conditioners, heat pumps don’t require a furnace to provide heat. However, when the temperature goes below freezing, they consume a lot of energy to maintain consistent functionality.

Can I Replace My Air Conditioner With A Heat Pump?

Yes, you can. Air conditioners are incapable of heating; therefore, you can always use a heat pump for heating purposes. The other option you have is to buy a furnace for your AC.

Is Lennox A Good Heat Pump Brand?

Lennox is among the leading heat pump brands. Their heat pumps are incredibly efficient. Moreover, they have worked towards making their units quieter. As a result, their version emits as much noise as a small refrigerator. See Lennox heat pump reviews here.

What About Oil And Infrared Heaters Vs. AC Units For Heating?

Oil heaters use oil to heat the air in a room. These are extremely quiet and efficient. Most importantly, the oil doesn’t need to be changed. Infrared heaters use electromagnetic radiations to transfer heat energy to the objects in the room. Unlike oil heaters, they can be used for bigger rooms as well.

In comparison, AC units are inefficient for heating. They are only capable of cooling. To provide accurate heat, they need to be combined with a furnace.

Conclusion

To answer the debate, heat pump vs. air conditioner is considerably tricky to conclude as the decision is highly personal. It is not easy to find out which one is better due to the numerous factors involved, such as personal budget, energy consumption goals, temperature preferences, weather conditions to name a few.

However, no matter which one you choose, we are here to help you make the best decision possible.

Ian Haynes

Ian Haynes is an HVAC writer, and researcher. He has worked on hundreds of articles relating to home cooling, heating and air quality with a vast knowledge of the technical aspects of these types of appliances. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador. Learn more about the AC Lab team here.

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