Whether you choose an air conditioner or heat pump for your new HVAC installation, your decision will affect your family’s comfort for years to come. That’s why it’s so important to be an informed consumer who understands the basic principles that underlie such a decision. While the topic can be complex, the information that follows should help you better understand the issues, allowing you to gain enough knowledge to play an active role in determining which type of system is more likely to meet your needs. This information can help you partner with your HVAC consultant to proactively consider all the relevant factors that might make either A/C or heat pump technology the better choice for you.
A Few Preliminary Principles to Help You Choose Either A/C or Heat Pump Technology
Both heat pumps and air conditioners work on the same thermodynamic principle — a principle that also applies to your home’s refrigerator. All three devices use liquid refrigerant as a medium for absorbing and carrying heat from one location to another, after compressing it to intensify its effect. An air conditioner or heat pump set in cooling mode draws heat from the inside of your home, amplifies it and transfers it to the outside. The main difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump is that the heat pump can also heat your home in winter, reversing the heat-absorbing process by drawing heat from the outside, amplifying it and releasing it inside your home.
One of the main reasons many people would rather install an air conditioner than a heat pump is that in some areas, where the variation between summer and winter temperatures is extreme, selecting the right size heat pump can be a challenge. It’s generally easier to select the right size furnace for heating and the right size air conditioner for cooling since your air conditioner is separate from your furnace. This allows you to choose your heating and cooling systems more or less independently of one another.
Ideally, you would prefer optimal performance from your system in both winter and summer. Yet, temperature extremes, along with certain other climatic factors that affect performance, can create a compatibility disconnect between summer and winter system requirements. With expert help, however, you can sort through this dilemma, determining whether A/C or heat pump technology is right for you. At Aqua Plumbing & Air, our factory-trained technicians can guide you in selecting not only the right type of system but also the right size system to satisfy both your winter and summer needs.
The Functioning of an Air Conditioner or Heat Pump in Venice, FL and Elsewhere
In any climate, air conditioning does more than simply cool the indoor air. It also controls humidity. The dehumidifying function is just as critical to your comfort as the cooling function — particularly in a humid climate such as Venice, FL. In winter, when the weather grows particularly cold, a larger heat pump will heat your home more effectively and less expensively than a smaller one, since it will be less reliant on its backup heating function, which involves using electric heat to supplement the heat provided by the pump. In summer, however, the opposite is true. A smaller heat pump will do a better job of dehumidifying the air under high-humidity conditions because it will run longer, which will allow it to withdraw more moisture from the air. A too-powerful heat pump will run for only a short time, while the rest of the time the excess moisture that is not removed from your home will build up, creating a cold but muggy environment and contributing to mold growth.
That’s why finding the right balance between winter heating capacity and summer cooling capacity is far more important when choosing a heat pump than when choosing an air conditioner. When you purchase a separate A/C system, your most important consideration will be the system’s suitability for the area you need to cool. However, those who live in humid climates will need to make sure their A/C system’s capacity isn’t too large to enable sufficient humidity removal. Stated another way, people who live in humid climates should use the smallest capacity air conditioner they can find that will sufficiently cool their homes. This will provide the most comfortable, even cooling.
Other HVAC Installation Options for Heat Pumps
In areas where the disconnect between winter heating and summer cooling requirements is greatest — such as those locales where winters routinely drop below freezing and summers are hot and/or humid — a multi-stage heat pump can be a viable option. Multi-stage heat pumps allow for different levels of heating and cooling depending on the need. This means they can supply higher capacity heating during cold winters and lower-capacity cooling during humid summers or on milder summer days. These systems are highly efficient, automatically adjusting the level of heating or cooling to the lowest level needed to provide comfort.
In very cold climates, a heat pump can also be supplemented with a furnace, providing highly efficient summer cooling and more dependable yet less-expensive winter heating.
Aqua Plumbing & Air: Your Local HVAC Installation Experts
If you still have questions about heat pump and air conditioner technology and which one might work better for you, give us a call. Aqua Plumbing & Air Conditioning HVAC experts are happy to help you sort through the wide variety of options available for keeping your family cool this summer.
Written by John Miller