Heat Pump Or Central Air: Which Is Better?

Posted on: 5 February 2015

Is a heat pump better than central air? That answer really depends on your needs for your particular home and climate. When trying to decide which is a better option for you, it helps to look at exactly what each one offers as well as their benefits and drawbacks.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a refrigeration system that can produce either hot or cold air into a controlled space. It uses refrigerant that absorbs or releases heat and it travels between the indoor air handler to the outdoor heat pump.

Basically, a heat pump moves warm air from one place to another. During summer, it absorbs heat from inside your home and moves it outside. During winter, it extracts heat from outdoor air, water, or ground (even when it is cold outside), and moves it inside to warm up your home.

Heat Pump Benefits: 

  • Because it moves heat instead of generating heat or cool air, it is more energy efficient
  • It is powered by electricity, so you will save money on fuel
  • A heat pump is all one unit therefore requiring maintenance for just one unit
  • Heat pumps are considered a "green" way to heat and cool your home because they run off renewable electricity

Heat Pump Drawbacks:

  • Heat pumps are generally used in moderate climates only and are less efficient if used in harsh winter temperatures
  • In colder climates, the coils can collect ice and require the use of burners to melt the ice which results in higher operating costs
  • Electricity costs will increase during the harshest climates either very hot or very cold temperatures

What is Central Air?

In central air, air conditioners cool the air by evaporating a refrigerant. The intricate system of an air conditioner relies on coils changing the refrigerant into various forms which eventually absorbs the heat and cools the home. You can combine this system with a furnace and create central heat as well using the same duct work. A furnace is located separately from your air conditioning unit and will require some type of fuel to create the heat such as gas or oil.

Central Air Benefits:

  • It is an ideal choice if you live in an area with harsh winters
  • Initially, it is very cost-effective

Central Air Drawbacks:

  • Even though they work in conjunction with each other, furnaces and air conditioners are two separate units each requiring their own maintenance
  • Fuels for furnaces can become very expensive during winter in harsher climates.
  • Using oil and gas is becoming a frowned upon method of heating your home due to it not being green.

The biggest deciding factor when it comes to choosing between heat pumps and central air comes down to where you live. You do not want to invest in a heat pump if it is not going to keep your home warm during a brutal winter. On the other hand, there is no reason to invest in central air and have two units to worry about if you live in a moderate climate. Talk to a professional like Hammes Ron Refrigeration for more information.