Heat Pump Vs. Standard Air Conditioner

Although a heat pump has a higher purchase cost than a standard air conditioner, it operates more efficiently and produces energy and cost savings over its lifetime. A standard air conditioner only cools during the summer months, whereas a heat pump functions both as an air conditioner and a heat source during the winter.

Heat pump.
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Mechanical Components

The mechanical components common to both a heat pump and an air conditioner are a compressor, expansion valve, evaporator coil and a condensing coil. In a cooling cycle, the heat pump and air conditioner operate exactly the same by utilizing refrigerant to transfer heat from inside the house to the outside. During the heating season, a heat pump has a special reversing valve that allows the system to extract heat from the ambient air outside the house and transfer it inside the house for heating purposes.

Air conditioner.
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Air conditioners have a single purpose, which is to provide cooling. During the winter, they sit idle while a separate furnace provides heat for the house. Heat pumps are dual-purpose, functioning year-round for both heating and cooling. A heat pump works best in moderate climates where the temperature during the winter does not go below 40 degrees F for extended periods of time. Heat pumps are normally equipped with supplementary electric resistance heat strips to provide additional heating during colder temperature periods.

Central air conditioner.
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The fuel conversion efficiency of a heat pump and an air conditioner are the same for the cooling cycle. A heat pump is a more efficient process during the heating season than conventional electric, gas or oil heating systems because a heat pump moves heat from one area to another rather than creating it. Heat pumps produce roughly two times more heat than the amount of energy consumed.

Heat pump.
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Initial Cost

In determining the initial purchase cost of a heat pump versus an air conditioner, each homeowner’s situation will be different. Generally, a heat pump will cost more when compared to the cost of a furnace or an air-conditioner individually, but a heat pump serves for both cooling and heating. Therefore, each installation must be examined for the particular circumstances to make an overall cost comparison.

Installing air conditioner.
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Operating Costs

The operating costs of a heat pump and an air-conditioner are similar during the summer months, but the energy and cost savings will occur during the winter heating season. Energy costs for a heat pump are generally 30% to 40% less during winter than a conventional air conditioner and separate electric heating system.

Summer months increase energy costs.
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Since a heat pump runs all year, its lifespan is about one-half that of an air conditioner. Quite simply, the mechanical components of a heat pump will require more frequent maintenance and will wear out faster.

A heat pump may wear out faster; consider costs.
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