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

by | Jul 27, 2021 | HVAC San Antonio

There are several different types of HVAC equipment that can be used in homes. When shopping for central cooling equipment, most San Antonio homeowners choose either air conditioners or heat pumps.

But do you know what the differences are between air conditioner and heat pump systems? In our most recent blog, the NATE-certified technicians at ASC Heating & Air explain the important details of each system so you can make the best choice for your home.

What Is an Air Conditioner?

The air conditioners most people are used to are central air conditioners, which cool the entire living space. These systems are what we call split systems, as they have indoor and outdoor components. Outside, the condensing unit is installed. Inside, an air handler or furnace may be used depending on your preferences and the needs of your home.

Air conditioners cool the air by removing heat. Heat is absorbed by refrigerant in the evaporator coil then carried outside to the compressor and condenser coil where it is released into the atmosphere. When the home needs heating, another type of HVAC equipment must be used.

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is another type of heating and cooling unit. Central cooling systems can use heat pumps, which are also split systems. Heat pumps are installed outside and connect to an indoor air handler, which holds the evaporator coil and distribution blower. 

Heat pumps cool a home’s air using the same method and components as an air conditioner. The key distinction between these two systems is that a heat pump can also heat the home. To do so, the system simply runs in reverse, extracting heat from outdoor air and sending it indoors to be released into the indoor air supply.

The Differences Between Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Systems

In addition to function, the main differences between a heat pump and air conditioner come in the form of performance, price, and longevity.

  • In mild winter climates like San Antonio, heat pumps produce extremely efficient heating. Meanwhile, when using an air conditioning unit to cool, you might pair the system with a natural gas furnace or electric furnace for heating. While high-efficiency heating units are available, these systems are not as efficient as heat pumps.
  • Heat pumps usually cost more to purchase and install compared to air conditioners. However, the indoor unit should typically be replaced at the same time as the outdoor unit so the system is matched for best performance. An indoor air handler for a heat pump is usually lower in price than a furnace that works with an air conditioner.
  • Because air conditioners only cool, they usually last longer than heat pumps, which work year-round as both heating and cooling systems. Air conditioners have an average service life of about 12 to 15 years, while heat pumps last an average of 10 to 12 years.

When deciding the best option for your home, it’s important to consider the type of heating you want as well as your budget. Working with a knowledgeable heating and cooling company can help you make an informed decision as you explore the differences between air-source heat pumps and air conditioners.

Contact ASC for Cooling System Installation in San Antonio

ASC Heating & Air explains the difference between a heat pump and air conditioner so San Antonio homeowners are able to make the best choice that suits their indoor comfort needs. No matter which system you choose, we provide expert installation so you receive the cooling and heating comfort you want. Contact us to request an estimate today.

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