If you’re thinking of installing a new heating and air conditioning system in your home, it’s important to know your options. Heat pumps and air conditioners are two of the most popular systems in today’s market and each has strengths and weaknesses.
How It Works
Air conditioners and heat pumps both work about the same way. The outdoor unit, indoor unit, and refrigerant all work together to provide cool air to your home. In brief, refrigerant is cycled from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit in a closed circuit. The refrigerant changes state from liquid to gas in the indoor unit which makes the coils super cold. Air passes over these coils and cools your house. Before the vapor refrigerant returns to the outdoor unit, it is compressed back into a liquid which creates heat. This heat is blown off by a fan in the outdoor unit and the process repeats.
Air conditioners have been cooling homes for decades and there’s good reason for it. Air conditioners simply do a good job at keeping your entire home cool. There’s something so easy about flipping a switch or pushing a button and relaxing as 75 degree goodness blows from the vents. If nothing else, it has certainly cut down the number of back injuries from installing window units.
A/C units are great for cooling but provide no help for heating. Anytime you install an air conditioner, you always need to have a furnace or some other type of heat for the winter time. However, air conditioners are generally cheaper than heat pumps. Heat pumps tend to cost a considerable amount more than air conditioners which raises A/C units to the top for price conscience shoppers.
Heat pumps are nearly identical to air conditioners but have the ability to reverse the process. Heat pumps preform like an air conditioner in the summer, but also provide heat in the winter. Many people use a heat pump solely for their entire heating and cooling.
There are disadvantages to heat pumps as well. If winter weather drops the temperature below about 30 degrees, a heat pump becomes ineffective. As a solution, many heat pumps can be fitted with electric resistant strips to supplement in cold weather. However, these heat strips are exclusively powered by electricity and can make the utility bill rise. As an alternative, many people utilize a wood/coal stove or a traditional furnace as a “cold weather” backup.
Really the decision needs to be made according to your needs. If you already have an efficient source of heat, than save some money and go with an air conditioner. If you only want one unit to worry about, than maybe a heat pump is right for you. A qualified comfort adviser will be able to walk you through what system is best for you home.
Tell us what you have in your house. Do you use a heat pump? What do you do when it gets really cold? Share your experience here.
Rohrer’s One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, Lancaster