Heat Pumps verses Air Conditioners

A maytag heat pumpBy Jody Howe
CEC Energy Specialist

To the naked eye, both a heat pump and an air conditioner look the same. However, there is a major difference. Where air conditioners only work to cool the air, a heat pump can both cool and heat the air.

Let’s break it down a little further. Both units outside your home or apartment use a compressor and refrigerant to help cool the air. Because heat flows from warmer to cooler- we need the refrigerant colder than the indoor air so that it can pull the heat out of the homes air. Simply put, it picks up heat from inside the house and moves it outside.

It is the same for a refrigerator or freezer, with a different range of temperatures.

It’s all about heat flow, which is temperature difference. Unlike air conditioning units, a heat pump can reverse the process by switching from cooling the air to actually extracting the heat from the outside air and bringing it into your home. Another point to note is the heat pump moves the heat rather than generates heat which makes the unit energy efficient. This allows a heat pump to provide heat at a rate that is at least twice as efficient as electric heating elements in a standard electric furnace.  The capacity of the heat pump at lower temperatures determines the use of these back up heating elements in the air handler.

To sum it up, where the air conditioner only provides cooling, a heat pump can provide efficiency heating and cooling.  To learn more about the incentives we offer through our heat pump program, visit our website.