When you install heating and air conditioning equipment in your home, you have to think about installation costs as well as maintenance costs. Many people will install both a furnace and an air conditioner so that they can both heat and cool a home. Installing two separate pieces of equipment will drive up your installation costs. In some cases, you can get away with using a heat pump to both heat and cool your home.
What Is the Difference between a Heat Pump and an AC Unit?
An AC unit uses a set of evaporator coils to vaporize a refrigerant. As the refrigerant vaporizes, it will absorb heat from its surrounding, which cools the air flowing into your home. The super-heated vapor will then cycle to your unit's condenser coils, where heat is expelled and the vapor condenses back to a liquid. In a heat pump, the flow of refrigerant and the function of the coils can be reversed. Thus, the same set of coils can be used to absorb heat from the outside air and push it into your home. Installing the one heat pump will cost much less than installing a separate furnace and AC unit.
When Will a Heat Pump Work?
Heat pumps can absorb heat from the outside air until the temperature falls to around freezing. At this point, your heat pump will struggle to heat your home. If you live in a moderate climate, then you should not have to worry about temperatures falling so low that you can't heat your home. On the other hand, if you live in the North, and you have to deal with temperatures that fall below freezing, using a heat pump to keep your home comfortable through the winter will be grossly inefficient. You can still, however, use a heat pump for three seasons and install a furnace to keep your home warm on the coldest days of the year.
In that heat pumps only have to move heat from one place to another, they can be more efficient than furnaces, which have to create their own heat. The most efficient furnaces top out at about 98% efficient while air-source heat pumps can be as much as 250% efficient. Thus, if you live in a South, using a heat pump can help you save money as opposed to using furnace, and in the North, it can still make sense to use one for at least three seasons of the year.
Talk to local air conditioning contractors to learn more.