When looking for efficient solutions for heating or cooling a home, many of us will start by weighing up air conditioners VS heat pumps. Since they both provide heating and cooling you wonder “what’s the difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner” and seek to understand which one of the two solutions is best.
What is the difference between a heat pump and air conditioner?
While technically an air conditioner is classified as an air-to-air heat pump, there is a big difference between a standard AC and an air-to-water low or high temperature heat pump which is best described as a Home Comfort System.
But before going into detail about which one is best, first let’s cover some basics.
How does an air conditioner work?
In hot weather, an air conditioner works exactly like a refrigerator, in the sense that it’s trying to cool air in an enclosed space and emitting the heat to the outside. The air flows over the cold heat exchanger in the indoor unit, where refrigerant absorbs the heat, passes through the compressor and rejects it toward the outside air via the heat exchanger in the outdoor unit. This cycle is constantly repeating, as long as the air conditioner is turned on in cooling mode.
How does a heat pump work?
In cold weather, a heat pump draws heat from the outside, whether it be from the air or the ground, and passes it over the refrigerant. This hot refrigerant is then passed throught a heat exchanger, where the heat is transferred to water and then passed to different emitters such as radiators, underfloor heating, a hot water tank or even fan coil units that can be used for cooling in warmer months.
Seeing how a heat pump is a more comprehensive solution, it makes sense to say it works as a “middle-man” that manages a home’s heating, hot water and cooling needs through its connections to the different emitters.
Heat pumps vs air conditioners: Which is best?
Air conditioner benefits
- Costs: Air conditioners generally require a smaller investment in comparison to Home Comfort Systems like heat pumps. While costs will vary depending on the model, size, capacity and manufacturer, they are typically an affordable heating and cooling solution.
- Air purification: Many modern day air conditioners come with specific air filtration and air purification filters that take care of your home’s indoor air and help clarify it from allergens (such as pollen) and viruses.
- Less components: The installation of an air conditioner is typically a lot more straightforward and whether you are heating or cooling you will always need three things: the outdoor unit, the indoor unit and your remote or app.
Heat pump benefits
- All-in-one: Heat pumps provide the full package for a home’s heating, cooling and hot water needs. They are a flexible solution that must be chosen and adjusted based on your home, whether it be an existing building or a new built.
- Future proof: Due to the nature of the system, a heat pump is a substantially more long-term solution to manage a home's temperature needs that can provide heating, hot water and cooling whenever and however needed. Heat pumps are also envisioned to fare better in lower temperatures, featuring technical and design solutions to ensure operation even in the harshest of winters.
- Return on investment: Heat pumps generally operate with a ratio of 30% electricity and 70% renewable energy sources, meaning that for every kilowatt of electricity used, a heat pump generates between 3 – 4 kilowatts of renewable heat from the air, amounting to approximately a 300 – 400% efficiency improvement when compared to standard fossil fuel system.
Conclusion: Should you buy an air-conditioner or a heat pump?
An air conditioner is an effective heating solution, however, it is a single room solution whereas a heat pump is designed to cover a full home’s heating, hot water and optional cooling requirements. Heat pumps can require extensive installation requirements whereas air conditioners can have a less invasive and less time consuming installation process.
To settle the debate on air conditioner vs heat pump neither system is better than the other and no amount of capability related positives or negatives tip the scales in favour of one or the other. The key difference lies in what need you want your temperature system to fulfil and which option is more suitable to your lifestyle and your home.
Need more help in deciding which is the best solution for your home? Visit the Daikin Home Solutions Hub for more information on heating, cooling and hot water systems.
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