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Comparing Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps

Heating & Cooling


Lexington homes and businesses use air conditioners or heat pumps to keep interiors cool throughout Kentucky’s hot summers. There are fundamental differences in the way these two cooling systems operate, and pros and cons to using each. Learning more about your cooling system options will help you make an informed purchase decision now, and impact your operating costs for the service life of the equipment.

Air Conditioners vs. Heat Pumps: How They Work

Air conditioners cool indoor spaces by extracting hot air, removing heat, and sending it back inside. The compressor converts refrigerant from gas to liquid to pass it through the system. Its evaporator coil exchanges thermal energy, and refrigerant converts from liquid to vapor to rid air of heat. Cooled air is then circulated back indoors.

Heat pumps simply extract excess heat. Hot air from indoors is pulled out by the heat pump, and deposited in the ground for geothermal heat pump systems, or outdoors for air source heat pump systems.

Air Conditioners vs. Heat Pumps: Efficiency

Air conditioners and heat pumps both use electricity to operate. Generally, heat pumps are more energy efficient and produce more units of cooling per unit of electricity consumed. High efficiency air conditioners are available which are more efficient than low-rated heat pumps; it’s important to evaluate the unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) when purchasing a new unit, as this will tell you how efficient the unit is. Units with higher SEER ratings will offer lower operating costs compared to units with lower SEER ratings.

Air Conditioners vs. Heat Pumps: Cost

Air conditions are typically lower in cost to purchase than heat pumps. But, they also require a heating system in order for the home or business to be heated throughout the winter, whereas a heat pump can do both. If no backup heating system is required due to climate, heat pumps may be more affordable upfront than an air conditioner paired with a furnace or other heating system. Geothermal heat pump systems are quite costly to install, typically exceeding the costs of high-efficiency conventional HVAC systems due to the necessary ground loop component.

Air Conditioners vs. Heat Pumps: Service Life

Air conditioners and air source heat pumps offer similar service lifetimes. These units can be expected to last 12 to 15 years, with regular maintenance. Air conditioners need preventative maintenance annually, while heat pumps require preventative maintenance twice per year – prior to cooling season, and prior to heating season.

Could your Lexington home or business benefit from a new air conditioner or heat pump this summer? Call Climate Control today to request an estimate – our HVAC staff will help you find the right cooling system which meets the demands of your home or business while offering affordable cooling costs.

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