Should You Choose a Heat Pump or an Air Conditioner?

Should You Choose a Heat Pump or an Air Conditioner?

17 Jun 2016

An air conditioner and a heat pump can both cool your Alice, Texas, home, but there are differences between these systems that might make one a better choice for you. Compare the initial costs, installation requirements, maintenance costs, and efficiency level of each system to help you decide which unit is better for your home.

How Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Work

Air conditioners and heat pumps both take heat from inside your house and exhaust it outside to lower the temperature inside your home. These units have three basic parts: an evaporator, compressor, and condenser. A refrigerant fluid circulates through these three parts to move the heat from inside your home to the outside.

When you turn on your air conditioner or heat pump, warm air from your home enters the unit and the evaporator. Liquid refrigerant absorbs the heat from the warm air, turning the refrigerant into a gas. The compressor raises the pressure of the refrigerant gas, which increases the gas temperature. The gas then enters the condenser unit where it changes back to a liquid, releasing the heat outside your home. This is a continuous process that returns chilled air into your home with each cycle. The refrigerant moves through this cycle, absorbing heat from inside and exhausting it outside until your home reaches the temperature set on your thermostat.

A heat pump has one more feature that an air conditioner doesn’t have, a reversing valve. This valve allows the refrigerant to flow through the cycle in reverse so a heat pump can cool as well as heat your home. There are different kinds of heat pumps:

  • Air source heat pumps – which use an outdoor fan to bring air over the coils in the heating and cooling process.
  • Ground source heat pumps – for which the ground serves as a heat source as well as heat sink depending on the time of year.
  • Water source heat pumps – which draw energy from a nearby pond, lake or another body of water and uses it for heating and cooling.

Heat pumps offer more versatility and more options for saving energy. They are also very efficient systems that result in significant cost savings in the long run.

Installation Options

A central air conditioner uses ductwork to move cool air through your home. If you don’t have existing ductwork in your home, installing a central air conditioner involves major renovations.

Heat pumps are also ducted systems, but installation will depend on the type of heat pump being installed. Air source heat pumps will require a process similar to that of the central air conditioner. Some have all components packaged in a single unit which makes installation easier. Water source and ground source heat pumps will require additional work outside. The ground source heat pumps require the installation of a vertical or horizontal system of pipes called an earth loop. So more work and upfront costs will be required for these systems, but they do pay off in the long run.

Cost and Efficiency

When considering the cost of your cooling system, consider the purchase price of a unit and its operating costs. A central air conditioning system often has cheaper upfront costs, but in the long-run could prove to be more costly than the more efficient heat pump.

Choosing an efficient air conditioner or heat pump will help you save money on your energy bills year after year. A cooling system’s efficiency is measured using a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, rating. The minimum SEER rating is 14. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the unit will be in terms of energy savings and comfort. Be sure to check the SEER before purchasing a new cooling system.

When hot weather arrives, you’ll want to keep your home cool and comfortable. Call 888-481-8511 to talk to one of our experts at Bodine-Scott Air Conditioning Co. about installing an air conditioner or a heat pump in your Alice, Texas, home today.

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