What is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and an Air Conditioner for Florida Weather?

When it comes to the comfort of your home or commercial space, both heat pumps and air conditioners can provide the environment you’re looking for. No matter which you choose as your cooling solution, that piece of machinery will be one the most important pieces of equipment you buy. However, air conditioners and heat pumps each have their own unique features and benefits. In this post, we’ll talk about how these two machines differ and which one is best for you.

How an AC Unit Works

While we normally think of air conditioners as cooling air, technically they just remove heat, called heat transfer. The simple explanation is: an air conditioner takes some of your home’s air and moves it over a cooling coil. Here the heat is absorbed and is released outside, leaving nothing but cool air, which is then pushed back inside your home. There’s a little more to it than that, but you get the idea! Long story short, air conditioners are really, really good at cooling air.

Heat Pumps Can Cool Too

Although the name may have you thinking that heat pumps only heat a space, they actually provide both heating and cooling. Among the most versatile of HVAC systems, heat pumps are a popular choice for year-round comfort.

Heat pumps actually have all of the same mechanisms as an air conditioner but can work in reverse as well. While air conditioners only have the capability of transferring heat from the inside to the outside, heat pumps can also bring heat from the outside in. Of course, as temperatures drop outside, the heat pump has less and less heat energy to use, and so they become basically ineffective once temperature fall below the freezing point.

On the exterior of your home, a heat pump looks just like an air conditioner. On the interior, a heat pump requires a piece of equipment called an air handler to fulfill its cooling duties.

What System is Right For You?

The quick answer is, it depends on where you live. If you live in a very cold climate with frigid temperatures, a heat pump alone doesn’t work effectively enough to warm your home throughout the winter. However, standalone heat pumps are excellent in places like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Southern California where winter temperatures are mild and rarely drop below freezing.

Because heat pumps are extremely efficient, they are often still used in cold areas in conjunction with a furnace. The heat pump can be utilized in spring, summer, and fall, then when temperatures become too harsh, the furnace can be used as supplemental heat.

In homes that already have a furnace but need to be retrofitted for summer cooling, it’s usually best to install an air conditioner, because a heat pump would require the extra expense of adding an air handler as well.

Heat Pumps Are Common Than You Think

In warm climates like we have here in Florida, furnaces are rare and unnecessary. Most new homes are built with heat pumps because they are the best suited for our needs. However, “heat pump” is not a common term — we almost universally use the term “air conditioner” to refer to all of our HVAC systems. Many people already own heat pumps even if they don’t know it because it’s just not a common term!

Reach Top-Notch Comfort with East Coast Mechanical

If you live in the Boynton Beach area and are considering a new AC unit or heat pump installation for your home, give us a call today! We have affordable, energy-efficient models that are geared and ready to provide the comfort you need. Still wondering which system is right for you? Give us a call today to speak with one of our comfort specialists!

For more information about air conditioners, see: What is a SEER Rating and Why Does it Matter?

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