Keeping your home cool in the summer can be a challenge depending on where you live. In many areas of the United States, the thermometer can climb over 90 degrees. When you combine high temperatures with a good bit of humidity, summer days can be pretty intense. If you live in one of these areas, your cooling system has to work hard to keep your home comfortable. A central air conditioner is one of the more popular ways to keep your home cool as it can deliver efficient cold air. However, central air isn’t your only option.
Contrary to the name, a heat pump can also serve as an efficient air conditioner. Like a central air conditioner, a heat pump removes excess heat and humidity from your home to help keep it cool and comfortable. If you compare a heat pump vs central air, the difference will be in the heating function. Let’s take a look at how each of these systems works.
There are two different kinds of heat pumps that operate differently but achieve the same goal. A geothermal heat pump relies on underground temperatures to deliver comfortable air to your home. The unit draws heat from the earth during the winter and relies on cool underground temperatures in the summer. The second option is an air source heat pump and is more commonly used. They operate similarly to the geothermal units, but they rely on air rather than the earth.
During the summer, a heat pump uses refrigerant to absorb the heat and humidity from your home. The hot refrigerant is then transferred from your indoor air handler to your compressor outdoor unit. Once outside, the refrigerant releases the heat into the air or the ground, depending on your unit. When you require heat in your home during the winter months, the heat pump system reverses the process to deliver heat into your house.
Like a heat pump, central air systems also rely on indoor and outdoor units. AC units also use refrigerant for cooling processes. When your air conditioner is on during the summer, the heat is transferred from the inside of your home and released outside. Similar to the heat pump, the refrigerant in the AC unit removes the excess heat from your home and provides cool air to your house. A blower fan pushes cooled air through your ductwork to various parts of your home.
The evaporator coil with your indoor unit is responsible for conditioning your air. When your system draws in air from your home, it is blown over the coil. The cold refrigerant inside absorbs the heat and cools the air down. The cooled air is then blown through your home, and the heated refrigerant is sent outside. The refrigerant passes through the compressor in the outdoor unit and releases the heat as it changes from liquid to gas. The refrigerant is then turned back into a cooled liquid and sent back inside to start the process again.
One of the main benefits of heat pumps is that they can provide both heating and cooling. A central air conditioner only supplies cool air, and you will need a furnace or other heating source for the winter. Heat pumps are efficient systems with generally good SEER ratings, but they may have difficulty keeping up with extremely cold temperatures in the winter. With an air conditioning system, homeowners usually find that they are more durable and can last a little longer. The choice between a heat pump and central air depends on personal preference. All modern systems are very efficient.
Comparing the two types of systems can be confusing at first. You can contact a qualified HVAC technician if you want to learn more about how a heat pump or central air might work in your home.