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Consider These Factors When Comparing Heat Pumps To Central AC

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A heat pump is an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system that transfers heat from a hot to a cold environment. For example, the heat pump can transfer heat from the house to the earth outside during the summer. During the winter, the heat pump reverses its heat-transfer direction and transfers heat from outside to warm the house.

Below are major areas in which heat pumps and conventional air conditioners differ.

Installation Budget

HVAC installation costs comprise labor and equipment costs. A central AC costs less to install than a comparable heat pump. The AC and heat pump type determines the exact installation cost. For example, air-source heat pumps cost more than geothermal (ground-source) heat pumps. Get multiple quotes from different contractors for an accurate price comparison.

The existing infrastructure or systems also determine the cheaper alternative. For example, a heat pump provides cooling and heating functions, while an AC only cools. Thus, choosing the AC is inexpensive if you already have a heating system in place and only need a cooling system.

Operating Costs

Operating costs represent what you must spend to keep each system running for the same period, say a year. Factors determining operating costs include:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Maintenance
  • Repair costs

Central ACs and heat pumps require roughly the same maintenance services and attract roughly the same repair costs. However, the two differ slightly in terms of energy consumption. Heat pumps are slightly more energy efficient than ACs since the former transfer instead of generating. Thus, you may see a small cost difference between AC and heat pump operations.


A good heat pump or central AC will serve you for many years. Each system's longevity depends on:

  • Its hours of operations
  • Design and installation
  • Weather and climate
  • Maintenance

The two mainly differ in hours of operation. Heat pumps operate longer since many use them for cooling and heating, while ACs are only for cooling. The extended hours of operations cause more wear and tear, which might shorten a heat pump's lifespan.


Although heat pumps operate in various climates, they work best in moderate climates. When the temperature rises too high, the heat pump struggles to transfer heat from your house to the outside environment. On the other hand, a well-sized AC will cool your house even when the temperatures rise.

Both systems have their pros and cons. Contact an HVAC contractor to learn more.