If you need to replace your air conditioning system or your entire HVAC, should you consider getting a heat pump for AC? A heat pump can replace your air conditioner, and possibly you heating system as well. But it is important to make sure it is the right choice for you needs.
A heat pump is basically an air conditioner that can also work in reverse to provide heat. In this article, we will compare a heat pump and A/C, and will explain the advantages along with the limitations of heat pumps. We will also address the cost as it is an important factor in your decision.
Heat pump vs air conditioner: how are they different?
In warm weather when your space needs cooling, a heat pump and air conditioner do exactly the same thing. They cool indoor space by removing heat and releasing it outside. In cold weather, when your space needs heat, obviously a traditional air conditioner can not help you. That is why the most residential and commercial spaces have furnaces or sometimes electric heat.
A heat pump, on the other hand will provide you with heat as well as cooling. The definition of a heat pump is: “an air conditioner that can also work in reverse to provide heat.” In basic terms a heat pump can remove heat from the outside air and release it inside.
Heat pump advantages over AC + furnace
- Heat pumps cost less to operate
This is the main reason for choosing a heat pump vs an air conditioner and a furnace. Heat pumps are very energy efficient, so you can save quite a bit on your utility bills. (Check out what energy.gov has to say about air source heat pump efficiency.)
- Heat pumps don’t burn fossil fuels
Unlike a gas or oil-burning furnace, heat pumps do not need to consume fossil fuels to produce heat. That makes them a more planet-friendly heating solution.
- One system to maintain and repair
If you’re using a heat pump as your sole source of heating and cooling, there’s only one system to maintain, and one system to diagnose and repair if anything goes wrong. That also lowers your total cost to operate.
- Heat pumps can save space
When you don’t need a separate appliance for heat, using a heat pump can be a space saver… which is a big in places like NYC where space is so expensive.
- Heat pump limitations
Heat pumps are less efficient in cold climates. The biggest downside of a heat pump vs AC is that heat pumps lose efficiency in colder weather. This makes sense when you understand how a heat pump works. When the outside air is colder, there is less heat energy to absorb and transfer inside, so the heat pump has to run longer and work harder to generate hear. If it’s cold for an extended period of time, the operating costs go up.
Possible Need For Supplemental Heat
Heat pump technology has improved quite a bit recently, and they can work in the colder climates much more effectively than they could in the past. However, if temperatures drop well below freezing, you may reach a point where a heat pump may not be able to provide enough heat. That is why, for homeowners and business owners in the Northeast, you may need to have a backup heat source if you choose to go with a heat pump. Of course, that will add to your overall cost.
Heat pump vs AC cost
The cost of equipment plus installation for a heat pump is generally higher than the cost of going with a traditional central air conditioner. The difference can be as much as several thousand dollars. However, if you are replacing your heating equipment as well as your Air Conditioner and you do not need supplemental heat then you could end up saving money. That is because you need only one new system instead of two.