Should I buy a central air conditioner or a heat pump for my home or business?
Well, let’s start with a brief description of the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump.
When people think about cooling, most people think about air conditioning. Straight cool air conditioning systems, that is. A straight cool air conditioning system includes a cooling cycle only. Meaning, when in operation, the refrigerant only flows in one direction through the system’s coils and compressor to produce the desired cooling effect in a home or business. The heating required to heat the space would be provided by other means, for instance, gas, oil, or electric strip heating (where air is blown over electrically heated metal coils and circulated into the living space). Electric strip heating is the least economical form of heating.
There are many different kinds of heat pumps, but they all operate on the same basic principle — heat transfer. This means that rather than burning fuel to create heat, the device moves heat from one place to another. Simply put, a heat pump is a cooling and heating system that provides a cooling cycle during the summer and a heating cycle during the winter. By reversing the refrigerant flow and allowing the absorption of heat from the outside air and then transferring it inside, a much more energy efficient system is achieved in the winter months. Heating is now provided at about half the cost of electric strip heating.
Think of a heat pump as a heat transporter constantly moving warm air from one place to another, to where it’s needed or not needed, depending on the season. Even in air that’s seems too cold, heat energy is present. When it’s cold outside a heat pump extracts this outside heat and transfers it inside. When it’s warm outside, it reverses directions and acts like an air conditioner, removing heat from your home.
I know, you asked that age old question. Well, here is your answer!
The question about which is better is dependent on your household use of both warm and cold weather climate control. (For purposes of this discussion we will be referring to homes located in the Central Florida, Space Coast area). When choosing any home comfort system we strongly encourage you to urchase an air conditioning system with the highest efficiency or S.E.E.R. allowed within your budget constraints. Selecting a high-efficiency system is wise because it can save you a lot of money in operating costs. Most modern systems exceed the rating of older units by anywhere from 25 to 40 percent, so an upgrade makes a lot of sense for many local customers. But wait, there is a caveat to that statement. If you travel or have a second home that remains vacant in the summer months when cooling demand is greatest for the occupants, you may want to purchase a less efficient air conditioning system. Your upfront cost are lower on your investment and many homeowners leave their home unoccupied with the temperature setting relatively higher at 80-81 degrees and just do not receive the energy savings purchased in a higher efficiency system.
The exact opposite is true with the purchase of a heat pump. Heat Pumps are very energy efficient systems for producing heat and they too have associated performance ratings, Heating Seasonal Performance factor (HSPF) based upon brand, capacity, etc. The HSPF refers to the power used when the unit is in heating mode. Whether to purchase a heat pump depends upon how toasty you and your household prefer to be while indoors. Homeowners that prefer a toasty indoor setting, who are elderly and use the heat often would benefit greatly from installing a heat pump. However, if you travel or your home is vacant in the winter months and heat is not required, then a heat pump would not be indicated. Heat pumps will increase the initial cost of your investment and you will only reap the energy savings when the system operates in the HEAT mode.
Did you catch that? You will only get a return on your investment (ROI) when the unit is in the heat mode!
Note that heat pumps are best for moderate climates, and a supplemental heating source may be needed for lower temperatures. As a year-round solution for home comfort, Air Care Systems, Inc. can help you decide if a heat pump system is right for you.