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What are the Differences Between a Heat Pump and an Air Conditioner?

What are the Differences Between a Heat Pump and an Air Conditioner?

We get asked this question a lot. “What is the difference between a heat pump and regular A/C”? In many ways, an air conditioner and heat pump function in the same way. But, there are some differences that are especially significant to homeowners in the Tacoma, Bremerton, Gig Harbor, and Federal Way areas.

The biggest mechanical difference between a heat pump and air conditioner is that a heat pump can transfer heat in two different directions.

  1. A heat pump can transfer heat from the interior of your home to the exterior of your home. That results in cooling.

  2. A heat pump can also transfer heat from the exterior of your home to the interior of your home. That results in heating.

Similar to your car – a heat pump can go forward or reverse. But, an air conditioner can only transfer heat in one direction.

  1. Heat from the interior of your home to the exterior of your home. That results in cooling.

An air conditioner takes any heat from inside your home and sends it outside. Unlike a heat pump, A/C can only transfer heat in one direction (out), so it cannot heat your home.

The biggest functional differences between a heat pump and an air conditioner is:

A heat pump can also heat your home.

An air conditioner cannot supply heat.

 

What is the #1 Advantage of a Heat Pump over A/C?

More and more in our Pacific Northwest climate, we are using air conditioning 6-months out of the year. With a heat pump, you can affordably heat and cool your entire home or a single room with one system.

Depending on the heat pump model, most can heat more efficient than other energy sources, such as gas furnaces, electric furnaces, oil furnaces, etc. Also, heat pumps usually have a higher SEER* rating. So, in certain cases, they can be more efficient than A/C’s, especially window-mounted units.

* SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER rating of a unit is the cooling output during a typical cooling-season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. The higher the unit’s SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is. (source Wikipedia)

 

What is the Advantage of a Ductless Heat Pump?

A considerable advantage of a ductless heat pump is that it doesn’t need ductwork. So, if your ducts are old and need to be replaced; this could be a cost-effective solution.

Another use is if you have a space that never had ductwork in the first place, like an addition. You can get heat and air into the space quickly and easily.

Similar to a heat pump and air conditioner, a ductless heat pump has an outdoor unit; and a small indoor unit that hangs on the wall. You can see an example here.

A ductless heat pump is perfect for a bedroom or common living area that is hard to heat or cool. Ductless heat pumps are also one of the most efficient sources of heating and cooling.

 

Can a Heat Pump Completely Replace my Furnace?

The answer is yes. Heat pumps work very well in the Tacoma, Bremerton, Gig Harbor, and Federal Ways areas. So, rather than replace your furnace with a conventional gas, propane, oil, or electric furnace consider a heat pump. If you have an electric furnace, a heat pump is much more cost effective and will save you up to 70% in energy costs because it will be the primary source of heat for your home, and will only rely on an electric furnace as emergency “back-up” heat on those very cold days.

So, when the cold winter comes and your A/C is off, your heat pump is still working. But instead of cooling your home, it’s heating it.

Also note, a whole house, or a central heat pump is installed using your existing ductwork. Therefore, all of the areas heated by your current system will continue to be heated and cooled with the heat pump.

 

How Do I Find out More About Rebates and Incentives for Heat Pumps?

Another great thing about heat pumps is rebates! Are you a Tacoma Power customer? If so, check out the links below. There are several rebates available for heat pumps.

You can also visit the federally funded NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s website to find out about available incentives in Washington State.

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