How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
What is the difference between a heat pump and a cooling air conditioner?
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
A cooling air conditioner, sometimes also called a “straight cool” or “standard” air conditioner, has only one function: utilizing the circular flow of a refrigerant gas to take the heat from inside a home and move it outside—which results in cooling the home’s interior. The heat pump is similar to a cooling air conditioner, except that it has a valve the can reverse the flow of the refrigerant so that it can also move heat from the exterior into the home—heating the home interior.
If you look closely at the manufacturer’s data plate on the side of the condensing (outdoor) unit of your HVAC system, you may be able to find the words “HEAT PUMP”, or “CENTRAL COOLING AIR CONDITIONER“ or “CONDENSING UNIT” for straight cool air conditioners.
A heat pump is more energy efficient at heating than an electric furnace, which utilizes electric resistance heating coils. But the heat pump has a limitation that it does not function well in temperatures below freezing, so it is best suited for a moderate climate. Colder areas of the country require a furnace for heating.
Also in very warm climates, such as in the Florida Keys, the extra initial cost of a heat pump may not be worth it for the few days of the year when a little heat is required. In that case, a cooling air conditioner with a heat coil in the air handler is the standard.
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To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these other blog posts:
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