How a Heat Pump Differs from an Air Conditioner

How a Heat Pump Differs from an Air ConditionerOne thing that can be confusing to homeowners is the difference between a central air conditioner and heat pump. They look the same, and they both cool the home in the summer. So what’s the difference? Following is an explanation of how a heat pump differs from an A/C.

How Heat Pumps Are Similar to A/Cs

An air-source heat pump cools your home in the same manner as a central air conditioner. Both systems rely on a chemical solution known as refrigerant to extract heat energy from inside the home and carry it outside. In the inside unit, the evaporator coil handles heat extraction, and in the outside unit, the compressor and condensing coil release that heat into the surrounding air. Inside, a fan blows air across the evaporator coil, then distributes the resulting cool air throughout the house. Outside, a fan blows away expelled heat.

How a Heat Pump Differs From an A/C

An air-source heat pump is a two-way system. While it provides high-efficiency cooling in the summer, its operation can be reversed to provide relatively efficient heating in the winter. A reversing valve changes the direction of refrigerant flow. When this happens, heat energy is extracted from the outside air and brought inside.

Once inside, heat is released into the inside air. During the heating process, the inside evaporator coil serves as a condensing coil, and vice versa outside. A standard air-source heat pump can provide three times the heat energy as the electricity that goes into the system, whereas a standard gas furnace can never exceed 100 percent heating efficiency.

This makes air-source heat pumps a convenient HVAC system in mild climates, since it combines cooling and heating into one efficient system. However, in colder climates, a backup heating system – sometimes an electric-resistance heating element, sometimes a gas furnace – is needed to supplement heat pump heating since it has a harder time pulling heat from very cold outside air.

For help finding an efficient heat pump or A/C for your Fort Wayne area home, please contact us at Hartman Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in New Haven, Indiana and surrounding Fort Wayne area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about heat pumps and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “argus/Shutterstock”

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    Richard Hartman Richard Hartman has worked in many capacities: service, installations, and production of sheet metal since the early years of the business.... More »