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What’s the Difference between an Air Conditioner and a Heat Pump?

Air Conditioners vs. Heat Pumps | Nelson Comfort

When it comes to cooling systems for your Cincinnati home or business, you have two basic types to choose from: air conditioners or heat pumps. Each provides cooling, but using different methods. Learn more about these different cooling systems, and which will best meet your needs.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners provide cooling by pulling warm indoor air into the system using its compressor and refrigerant. Refrigerant is converted from gas to liquid, and passed over the system’s evaporator coil, where thermal energy is released. Refrigerant is converted to vapor, removing heat from the air surrounding it. Once heat is removed, the cooled air is circulated back indoors.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are actually dual cooling AND heating systems. To cool a home or business, a heat pump extracts the excess heat from indoors and deposits it either outdoors (air source heat pump) or below ground (geothermal heat pump). When heating is needed, the heat pump operates in reverse, pulling heat from within the Earth or the air outside, and moving it indoors.

Differences between Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps

Air conditioners and heat pumps each come with their own advantages.

  • HVAC systems using air conditioners will require a heating system, whereas heat pumps are capable of offering heating and cooling. In Cincinnati, a backup heating system should be paired with a heat pump to offer efficient heating when outdoor temperatures are below 40 degrees.
  • Heat pumps use less electricity than air conditioners, as they are capable of producing more units of cooling per unit of energy consumed, compared to air conditioners. Using a heat pump typically results in lower cooling bills.
  • Air conditioners are usually lower in cost to install than heat pump systems. They are often the more affordable choice when sticking to a limited installation budget. Air source heat pumps are more affordable than geothermal heat pump systems, which require an extensive ground loop system for operation; geothermal heat pump systems can cost over $10,000 to install, but offer superior energy conservation and affordable cooling.

Is an air conditioner or a heat pump right for your Cincinnati home or business? Have the cooling experts at Nelson Comfort find efficient and affordable solutions to keep your interiors comfortable this summer! Contact us today to get started.

About The Author


Dan Detmer

Dan Detmer is the owner of Nelson Comfort. Dan was born into the heating and cooling industry, coming from a family of well respected HVAC contractors in Dayton, Ohio. After working in the family business, Dan decided to work for a local HVAC wholesale business helping local contractors grow their business. When he felt his heart moving him back into the residential and light commercial business, Dan joined the Mortimer Heating & Cooling team in Cincinnati, where he had called home and become part of the community for several years. After a short period of time Dan purchased the company and created what is today, Nelson Comfort. Today he operates a company based on integrity, honesty, and stellar customer service. If you have any questions feel free to tweet (at sign) NelsonComfort and we will get right back with you!

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