AIR CONDITIONERS AND HEAT PUMPS- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

By: Patricia Cermignano

If this upcoming summer is anything like last summer, we are in for four straight months of excessive heat. Two different solutions to help remove heat from your home during those hot summer months is to have an air conditioner or a heat pump installed. While both of these HVAC systems serve as a cooling agent, it is important to understand that there are stark differences between the two systems.

Air Conditioner-

According to Bryant, an air conditioner is "a system which removes heat from an occupied space, leaving the space cool and comfortable". An air conditioner is comprised of the outdoor condensing unit and the indoor evaporator coil, which is attached to either the furnace or air handler. The outdoor condensing unit and the evaporator coil are connected to one another through copper pipes- called a line set.The line set carries liquid refrigerant from the outdoor condensing unit to the indoor evaporator coil. When the liquid refrigerant reaches the evaporator coil, it absorbs the hot air flowing from the return duct which evaporates into a gas. The warmed gas refrigerant is then carried outside to the condensing unit, where it is released to the outdoor air. Once the warm air has been removed, the only remaining air at the evaporator coil is cold air. The blower motor then blows the cold air from the evaporator coil throughout your home via your duct work.

With the overwhelming high demand for more energy efficient appliances over the years, there have been significant advancements in air conditioning technology. In addition to the standard single stage air conditioners which have a fixed output capacity, there are two types of air conditioners in particular that are important to know about- Two Stage Air Conditioner and Variable Capacity Air Conditioner. Please see below for a brief overview of each:

  • Two Stage Air Conditioners- A two stage air conditioner can operate at two different stages. The first stage generally runs at half of its capacity, which generates less electricity than a single stage air conditioner. Meanwhile, the second stage runs at full capacity. During the day when outdoor temperatures are mild, the system will operate using only the first stage. However, when the outdoor temperatures are high, the system will switch to full capacity when needed to keep your home cool and comfortable.
  • Variable Capacity Air Conditioners- A variable capacity air conditioner uses an inverter type of compressor technology to adjust the compressor motor speed to help modulate the cooling capacity. The cooling capacity of a variable capacity air conditioner automatically adjusts up or down, based upon cooling demand. This helps to use only the precise amount of energy needed.

Heat Pump-

According to Bryant, a heat pump is "a product that works just like an air conditioner in cooling mode; however, in heating mode, the refrigerant flow is reversed and heat is extracted from the outside air to heat your home". A heat pump works in conjunction with either an air handler or a furnace to help circulate air throughout your home. During the colder months, the heat pump uses the reversing valve to help reverse the refrigerant cycle which allows the heat pump to provide heat to your home. When that cycle is reversed, the refrigerant within the heat pump extracts heat found in the outdoor air, even when the temperature outside is cooler. The heat pump compresses and transfers the heated refrigerant to the evaporator coil located inside your air handler or furnace. The evaporator coil also acts as a condenser, releasing hot air and leaving behind only cool refrigerant. The cooled refrigerant then runs back to the heat pump, where the cycle repeats. When the outdoor temperature drops below 30°F, there is less heat in the air for the heat pump to absorb. This is called the balance point. Once the heat pump reaches this balance point, a secondary heat source is necessary to meet the home's demand for heat. The heat pump then works with either a furnace or air handler to supply the necessary heat. During the warmer months, the heat pump uses the same process as an air conditioner to cool your home.

With the overwhelming high demand for more energy efficient appliances over the years, there have been significant advancements in heat pump technology. In addition to the standard single stage heat pumps which have a fixed output capacity, there are two types of heat pumps in particular that are important to know about- Two Stage Heat Pumps and Variable Capacity Heat Pumps. Please see below for a brief overview of each:

  • Two Stage Heat Pumps- A two stage heat pump can operate at two different stages. The first stage generally runs at half of its capacity using less electricity than a single stage heat pump. The second stage heat pump runs at 100% of its total capacity. During the day when the temperature is milder, the system will operate using only the first stage. When the outside temperature is colder or warmer, the system will switch to full capacity as needed to make your space the proper temperature.
  • Variable Capacity Heat Pumps- A variable capacity heat pump uses an inverter type of compressor technology to adjust the compressor motor speed to help modulate heating and cooling capacity. The capacity automatically adjusts up or down depending on the heating or cooling demand to use only the precise amount of energy needed.

 

While both air conditioners and heat pumps have different features and functionalities, they do share some similar benefits. This list includes but is not limited to:

  • Energy Efficient
  • Improved Comfort
  • Increased Indoor Air Quality
  • Noise Reduction

For more information on air conditioners and heat pumps, please call our office at 610-642-6323 or visit our website at http://www.bobsredtrucks.com/support/product-knowledge/.