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What is the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump?

One of the most popular requests we get is to explain the the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump. Generally speaking, both systems offer the similar functionality in that they provide cooling by cycling refrigerant to collect and remove heat from within your home and then move it to outside of your home. However, a heat pump is also able to produce heat to a home by essentially reversing this heat transfer process. This means that it can extract heat from the cold air outside of your home and push it inside to heat your home.

How it is possible to extract heat from cold air outside of a home?

First, you should know that there is always some amount of heat trapped in cold air (unless the temperature is absolute zero, but that is another topic we won’t go into here). A heat pump can thus extract and then transfer whatever amount of heat exists in the outside cold air and bring it inside your home.

Longevity of AC, furnace and heat pump

In General, the average lifespan of a heat pump is a bit shorter than both an air conditioner and furnace as follows:

  • Heat pump average lifespan: 10 – 15 years
  • Air Conditioner average lifespan: 15 – 20 years
  • Furnace average  lifespan: 20 – 30 years

Costs associated with a heat pump vs. a furnace

A heat pump is more energy efficient than a furnace, on average costing approximately 30% less to operate than a furnace. A heat pump is also less expensive to install than a furnace, assuming you don’t need to install a new gas line for it.

Do you Need a Heat Pump or an Air Conditioner and Furnace in Phoenix?

It’s important to note that a heat pump may not be the best choice for heating a home in areas (i.e. Flagstaff)  where temperatures drop below freezing because at such low temperatures, a heat pump becomes very inefficient.  In such cases, it would make more sense to use a traditional combination of a central AC system with a Furnace.

If you live in the Phoenix East Valley of Arizona  and need help deciding between these two types of HVAC systems, we can help. Contact Eagle Air for a free in-home consultation at 480-748-1781.