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Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Which is Right for You? Part 1

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Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Which is Right for You? Part 1

When you're looking for sweet relief from the summer heat, you probably don't care if you have a heat pump or air conditioner - you just want it to work. But when you're looking to install or replace an HVAC system that effectively heats and cools your home and keeps your family comfortable, it's good to know your options. The difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner can be confusing. We bring you a quick course on heat pumps and air conditioners.

 

The basics of air conditioning and heat pumps

In cooling mode, heat pumps and air conditioners do the same job of moving hot air from inside the home to outside. In HVAC terminology, heat pumps and air conditioning systems are specific types of devices that provide cooling. But a heat pump also has a second job that it can do. Let's look under the bonnet of both and see how they work.

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps operate on the principle that it is usually easier to move something than to produce something. In keeping with this concept, they have been used for many years to cool homes by simply transferring heat from inside the home to the outside and the reverse process to heat homes.

Components of a heat pump

A typical air source heat pump consists of two parts - also called split systems - with an internal air diffuser and an external unit. The heat pump system comprises many components:

A compressor that moves the refrigerant through the system

Coils, both condenser and evaporator, which heat or cool the air

Reversing valve that alters the flow of refrigerant

Thermostatic expansion valves that regulate the refrigerant flow

Refrigerant accumulator which is regulated according to the seasons

Refrigerant lines that connect the internal and external components

Heat strips used for additional heating on cold days

Ducts that carry hot or cold air throughout the home.

Refrigerant is a compound that easily changes from liquid to gaseous state, absorbing heat from the environment and transferring it elsewhere - a process known as heat exchange.

How does a heat pump work?

When colder temperatures arrive in autumn and winter, the heat pump has a magic reversing valve that switches the system from cooling to heating, drawing heat from the outside air into the house. Normally, the heat pump can extract enough heat from the outside air to heat the house at 70 degrees as long as the outside temperature is above 30.

 

But when the temperature drops below 30 degrees, the heat pump goes into auxiliary or supplementary heating mode because there is not enough heat in the outside air to draw in. When the thermostat requires a significant increase in temperature, the system switches to an auxiliary heat source to heat the house faster and save energy/money.

 

What size heat pump do you need?

Choosing the right size heat pump for your home is crucial for a well-functioning and efficient heating and cooling system. If your heat pump is too small, it will struggle to cool and heat your home.  On the other hand, if it's too big, it will waste energy by producing too much hot or cold air, constantly turning on and off, and straining the motor.  There are a number of factors that go into choosing the right size for your unit.

 

Local climate

The size of your home

Windows and doors

Insulation in the home

Number of people in the home

Temperature preferences of occupants

Other appliances that can generate heat

Inviting an expert to assess your home and needs is the best way to find out if a heat pump is a good option for you.


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