Cooling Systems: The Difference Between Central Air & Heat Pumps

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When you need to cool down your home in the middle of a hot summer, you have two basic options – central air, or a heat pump. Of course, to accurately pick between those two, you need to understand how they work in the first place. Only when you have a clear picture of what each can do will you really be able to make an informed choice. The content below will help you to understand each of these useful cooling options.

Standard Air Conditioning

Most of us are familiar with standard air conditioners. You probably have it in your car, and many people have it in their homes – especially those who live in hot parts of the country. In many ways, an air conditioner is no different than your refrigerator. The goal of the air conditioning unit is to cool down one area, by trading heat with another area. In the case of your home, for example, the warm air is taken out of the home and cool air is put in its place.

What is a Heat Pump?

You may have heard the term ‘heat pump’ before, even if you didn’t know exactly what it meant. A heat pump is actually quite similar to an air conditioner, but it works in a different way. One of the main differences is the fact that heat pumps can actually be used both ways – they can be used to cool your home, but they can also be used to heat your home. This is a nice feature, of course, as you can use a heat pump all year long, while an air conditioner is likely to sit idle during the winter months. Also, heat pumps are more efficient than traditional central air, giving you the possibility to save money on your utility bills.

So should you automatically choose a heat pump, then? Not necessarily. For one thing, a heat pump is almost always going to be more expensive than an air conditioner. Also, heat pumps are necessarily a great option when the weather is especially cold, as it might struggle to heat your home to a comfortable temperature. A traditional furnace is usually going to do a better job in such a situation.

Each Situation is Unique

Picking between central air and a heat pump is going to come down to your specific needs and preferences. If you don’t live in a place which gets especially cold in the winter, a heat pump could be a strong option. After all, you will enjoy the added efficiency, and you will be able to use the same unit all year long. On the downside, you will incur a greater upfront cost. Central air remains a quality choice for many people, as it focuses on its one job, and it does it well. Should you already have a furnace in place and you are only looking to add a cooling element to your home, central air is the smart pick.