What is the Difference Between An Air Conditioner and A Heat Pump?

image of an air conditioner and a heat pump

If you’re currently searching for the best HVAC system for your home, then remember that it’s crucial to study all the various options available before you make a final decision.

Most people commonly use an air conditioner in the summer and a furnace in the winter. However, you can also try out some alternatives such as using a singular heat pump throughout the year.

In this article, we’re going to compare air conditioner vs. heat pump. We’ll take a look at their similarities, differences, and ideal usage scenarios so you can make a better buying decision.

Explore Our HVAC Services Call To Schedule A Free, In-Home Estimate

How Are Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners Similar?

heat pump refrigeration cycleHeat pumps and air conditioners are both cooling solutions, and they are similar in many ways.

First of all, they work the same way by using the same parts. Both systems use refrigerant to absorb heat from the inside of your home and then dump them outside, making your home a lot cooler. For this to work, both systems depend on a refrigerant and compressor to effectively transfer heat and make the process continue.

This whole cycle will gradually cool your home until it reaches your desired temperature. And once it does, the system pauses and will only work again if the temperature suddenly rises.

But aside from the process, another similarity between heat pumps and air conditioners is that both cooling systems are highly efficient and effective.

Call Today: (800) 888-2888

Differences Between A Heat Pump and And Air Conditioner

Since both systems almost work the same way and use the same essential parts, how are they different from each other?

Well, there’s actually one essential part that makes the heat pump unique and different. And this is the valve that can change direction.

Here’s how it works:

When you flip a switch, instead of gathering heat from the inside, the heat pump will gather heat from the outside. The heat it gathers will then be brought inside, making your home hotter. In other words, it’s a reverse process. This happens because the refrigerant already works in reverse while maintaining the same cycle.

It’s actually pretty cool because, during the colder months, you can use a heat pump to heat your home. But does this mean that you’ll just buy a heat pump and have a 2-in-1 solution? Or is buying both an air conditioner and a heater right for you?

Well, let’s try to weigh whether the heat pump or air conditioner is right for you…

Learn More About Our HVAC Services Call To Schedule A Free Estimate


Which HVAC System Is Right For You?

1. Cost to Purchase and Install Either A Heat Pump Or Air Conditioner

image of how much and calculator depicting heat pump vs air conditioner costs

Window-type air conditioners are often most people’s first choice when it comes to low-cost cooling systems. However, we found that even if they cost less initially, they also have incredibly high operating costs.

These systems are highly inefficient, noisy, and can even create the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Therefore you’ll be spending more money in the long run, and you’re even sacrificing the quality of your indoor air.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, would require you to spend money for an indoor and outdoor unit, which can be very costly to acquire and install. However, we would still consider it as a great investment as you’re getting both a cooler and a heater as a single package.

The best part about this is even if you’ll be spending a large amount initially, you could still save a lot in the long run.

Call To Make An Appointment

2. Energy Efficiency and Cost to Operate Each HVAC System

image of energy efficiency

When it comes to energy efficiency, there’s no denying that heat pumps win against air conditioners. However, we’re not saying that air conditioners are inefficient. After all, both cooling systems can have high SEER ratings.

If you don’t know what a SEER rating is, it actually stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s the measure of the cooling output per electrical output, which helps you know whether a system is highly efficient or not.

The higher the SEER rating, the better. This means that the system will be able to cool down the whole place even when it’s using a small amount of energy, which helps save you money.

So, with regards to cooling your home, heat pumps are more efficient. But if you prefer using air conditioners, just find one that has a higher SEER rating.

Now, in the case where you want to heat your home (the reverse cycle of your heat pump), there are instances when the heat pump can be more expensive or inefficient to use. What do we mean by this?

If you live in an area where temperatures don’t drop below freezing point, a heat pump will work well and efficiently. However, if you live in places where the temperature goes down to an extreme level, a heat pump won’t help you save money.

When it’s too cold, the heat pump would have to work harder, which will not only increase costs but can also cause damage to the system.

For this type of situation, using a combination of an air conditioner and a furnace would cost you less than installing a heat pump.

Call To Schedule An Appointment

3. HVAC System Longevity

You also need to consider how long the system can serve you. After all, if you’re getting an expensive system, you need to make sure that it will be worth the money you spend.

Air conditioners usually last longer than heat pumps because you use them less than heat pumps. If you think about it, air conditioner systems are only used during the hotter months, and they can rest during winter when it’s time for you to use the furnace.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, work for the whole year, which makes them succumb to wear and tear much faster. However, you can still easily increase the longevity of these systems by making sure that you call professional HVAC technicians to regularly tune-up your heat pump.


Ask An HVAC Expert To Find The Best System For Your Home

HVAC system installations and replacements are what we can consider as investments to ensure your family’s comfort. However, they can be costly; that’s why you need to make sure that you are properly informed about all your options.

We highly recommend consulting with an HVAC professional so you can ask whatever questions you have in mind that will help you make a good buying decision. This way, you won’t have any regrets.

Most people think that this can be a waste of money, but expert HVAC contractors have undergone training. They’ve worked with these systems for years, allowing them to gain the knowledge and skills needed to guarantee that you get what you need.

These professionals will give you the best advice, and they can even help you select the best heating or cooling systems that are within your budget and will save you more money in the long run. But aside from that, they provide you with systems that guarantee excellent indoor air quality and year-round comfort.

Call To Book An Appointment Read Our Reviews



There is always a lot of confusion between heat pumps and air conditioners. But we do hope that this article has explained thoroughly that these two have similar cooling methods, efficiencies, and performance.

If you’re planning to get a heat pump as it is more versatile, make sure that you’re in areas with moderate climates so that the system can function at its best. You also need to make sure that you tune it up annually, so it stays with you longer.

But whether you want to get an air conditioner or a heat pump, be sure to talk to a cooling or heating company. This way, the best options will be laid out for you, and in the end, you can confidently choose the right system for you.

Call Townsend Energy For Your HVAC Requirements

te logoTownsend Energy offers superior heating and cooling services in Northeastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and Maine.

We make sure to hire the best-certified technicians who can provide you with excellent HVAC services which include tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Each technician has outstanding knowledge and experience to serve your HVAC system needs correctly.

At Townsend Energy, we can provide you with the most competitive heating and cooling service costs in the area. Our maintenance services ensure to improve your comfort, increase your system’s energy efficiency, and reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs.

Need your system repaired or replaced? We’ll recommend the best one for your home that lies within your budget. The best part is, all our work is backed with a guarantee to ensure your satisfaction.

If you wish to schedule a service appointment, give us a call today! We also offer in-home estimates at no cost at all. Call now!

Call Now: (800) 888-2888 Explore Our Library Of Case Studies

Contact us now at (800) 722-4101 to find out more!