How To Beat The Heat: Heat Pump Vs. A/C

With the air conditioner invented in 1902 and the heat pump invented in the 1948, these two options have been at odds in homeowners minds for more than half a century. While both operate on very similar principles – moving heat from one location to another via refrigerant – they have very different missions. The heat pump vs. A/C debate can only be resolved by an individual homeowner’s distinct needs, but we’re here to give you the best information possible.

On average though:

  • a heat pump will cost slightly more to install than an A/C unit, and may require a backup system for the coldest Minnesota days; and,
  • an A/C unit will cost slightly less to install, but will definitely need a furnace or other heat source installed to handle winter heating.

For more specific information, set up an appointment with an HVAC specialist at Finken.

Heat Pump Vs. A/C: What They Do

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps aren’t just for heating as you might think from their name. A heat pump can serve as way to both heat and cool your home, serving you all year long.

A heat pump in some cases can completely replace a furnace and air conditioner system, or can work in conjunction with some form of furnace in Minnesota.

A/C Units

An A/C unit is used only for cooling, though it is based on the same technology as a heat pump.

How They Work

When comparing a heat pump vs. A/C, keep in mind that they work nearly identically in the warmer months when cooling your home. The big difference is in winter, when the heat pump continues to work but the A/C is shut down in favor of an alternative heating source.

Heat Pumps

 

Heat In Winter

The heat pump:

  • compresses refrigerant, raising the pressure and heating it;
  • sends it into the indoor condenser which cools it with airflow, and sends heat into your home;
  • Sends refrigerant outside, then decompresses the refrigerant, lowering the pressure;
  • sends it into the condenser which sends cool air outside;
  • sends it to be pressurized again.
    • the heat pump’s effectiveness is reduced when the outside temperature is less than 32° F

 

Cool In Summer

The heat pump:

  • compresses refrigerant, raising the pressure;
  • sends it into the outdoor condenser which cools it with airflow, and sends the cooled refrigerant into your home;
  • decompresses the refrigerant, lowering the pressure and cooling it to the desired temperature;
  • sends it into the indoor condenser which warms the refrigerant with airflow while cooling your home;
  • sends it back outside to be pressurized again.

 

A/C Units

The A/C unit:

  • compresses refrigerant, raising the pressure;
  • sends it into the outdoor condenser which cools it with airflow, and sends the cooled refrigerant into your home;
  • decompresses the refrigerant, lowering the pressure and cooling it to the desired temperature;
  • sends it into the indoor condenser which warms the refrigerant with airflow while cooling your home;
  • sends it back outside to be pressurized again.

Efficiency & Longevity

If you’re looking for efficiency in any heating or cooling equipment, be sure to pay attention to the SEER value (Seasonal Energy Efficient Rating). Currently, the U.S. Department of Energy requires any heating or cooling equipment to have a minimum SEER of 13. A very highly efficient piece of equipment might have a SEER of 18.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps, because they handle both heating and cooling operations, run all year. That means they last a bit less than the average A/C unit, averaging 12-15 years. However, current heat pumps are 150-200% more efficient than those used 30 years ago.

A/C Units

A/C units on the other hand run seasonally. On average they’ll last 15-20 years, and these days use 50% less energy than units built 40 years ago.

When you’re ready to make your decision or need more information, set up an appointment with an HVAC specialist at Finken!