Heating and Air Conditioning: Heat Pumps vs. ACs

heating and air conditioning

Heating and Air Conditioning Choices

Looking to install or replace your heating and air conditioning system? Do you want a heat pump to provide both your air conditioning and your heat, or do you want a separate furnace for heat and a separate air conditioning unit to cool your home?

When it comes to cooling, heat pumps and AC units do the same basic job of transferring hot air from inside your home to the outside. But there are some differences. In terms of what is best for heating and air conditioning, let’s take a look at:

  • What does a heat pump do?
  • What are the components of a heat pump?
  • How does a heat pump heat as well as cool?
  • What are the pros and cons of heat pumps?
  • What is central air conditioning?
  • How does central air conditioning cool?
  • What are the pros and cons of central air conditioning?
  • Which heating and air conditioning choice is best?

What does a heat pump do?

Simply put, a heat pump removes heat from inside your home and transfers it to the outside to cool your home, reversing the process to heat your home.

What are the components of a heat pump?

It sounds simple, but there is a lot involved in making a heat pump work for your heating and air conditioning. A heat pump is a split system, meaning it has an outside unit and an inside unit. 

The outdoor unit contains a coil and a fan. The coil acts as either a condenser when in cooling mode or an evaporator in heating mode. The fan blows outside air over the coil to either remove heat or add heat.

The inside unit also contains a coil and a fan that performs the same function for inside air that is distributed throughout your home via air ducts.

Refrigerant is used to absorb and reject heat. A compressor pressurizes the refrigerant so it can move through the heat pump system. There are also valves that determine the direction the refrigerant flows; they  reduce pressure and temperature to meet the heating and cooling demands.

How does a heat pump heat as well as cool?

It might seem confusing that something that is called a heat pump actually cools, as well. Actually, heat pumps don’t even create heat. Rather, a heat pump transfers heat. In cooling mode, the heat pump absorbs heat from inside air and transfers it outside; in heating mode, the heat pump absorbs heat from outside air and transfers it inside.

At this point you are wondering, if it is cold outside, how can a heat pump absorb heat from outside air? Fun fact: As long as the outside temperature is roughly above freezing, a heat pump can pull enough heat to warm an average-size home to a toasty 70℉. 

What are the pros and cons of heat pumps?

Heat pumps are generally more energy efficient than conventional heating and cooling systems. Also, heat pumps are powered by electricity, eliminating the need for natural gas or obtaining a propane tank if you don’t have gas for a conventional furnace. Even compared to an electric furnace, heat pumps are generally more efficient and can decrease your energy bill.

The caveat here is that if you live in an area where temperatures frequently drop below freezing, you need a backup system with a conventional furnace. Heat pumps also generally cost more, and when used constantly for both heating and air conditioning, they tend to break down sooner than conventional HVAC systems. Also, when a heat pump does break, you lose both your heating and air conditioning. 

What is central air conditioning?

Like a heat pump, central air conditioning extracts heat from inside your home and circulates it outside. Unlike a heat pump, central air conditioning only cools; it does not heat your home. 

What are the components of central air conditioning?

An air conditioning system is also a two-unit system. An outside unit contains a compressor and condenser; the inside unit contains an evaporator coil. The two units are connected by a set of lines circulating refrigerant that pulls heat out of indoor air and circulates it outside. Conditioned air is blown through your home’s ductwork to cool your rooms.

What are the pros and cons of central air conditioning?

Central air conditioning keeps rooms consistently cool, and is particularly good at cooling large homes. Another advantage of central air conditioning systems is they also filter air to improve indoor air quality. And if the AC unit fails, you are only replacing it and not the entire heating and cooling system. Should the AC malfunction toward the end of the cooling season, you can put off investing in a new unit for a while, until next summer arrives. 

The disadvantage is that central air conditioning requires a furnace for heating, adding to the cost of a complete HVAC system. 

Which heating and air conditioning choice is best?

Heat pumps use less electricity than central air conditioning, and since they do double duty as both your heating and air conditioning source, in most cases they cost less overall. However, a heat pump stops working in icy weather, so if you experience regular temperature drops below freezing during winter, you’ll need a backup system, which adds to your cost. 

There are a lot of factors to consider. Ongaro & Sons can help you make a decision that is right for your family and your budget. A family-owned business in its fourth generation of operation, Ongaro & Sons provides complete home central air conditioning services as well as heat pump services, including installation, maintenance, and repair. 

We are a licensed state contractor with fully insured, qualified, and professional technicians dedicated to industry-leading heating and air conditioning solutions. Our 100% guarantee ensures your complete satisfaction. 

Contact Ongaro & Sons here or call us at 707-419-3135 today to have us answer your questions about central air conditioning and heat pumps. We’ll help you determine which can best satisfy your heating and air conditioning needs.