Difference Between Heat Pump & a Heating & Cooling System

Difference Between Heat Pump & a Heating & Cooling System. A heat pump can provide energy and cost savings compared to conventional heating and cooling systems. In moderate climates, the installation and purchase costs of a heat pump can be less and will produce substantial savings to the homeowner over the lifespan of the equipment.

Heat pumps are an alternative to conventional heating and cooling systems

Cooling

A heat pump and a cooling system have common mechanical components of a compressor, evaporator coil, condensing coil and an expansion valve. During the cooling phase, a heat pump and an air-conditioner operate the same by using a refrigerant to transfer heat from inside the house to the outside.

Heating

A conventional heating system burns a fuel, such as gas or oil, to generate heat. The burnt combustion gases must then be expelled outside of the house through a flue. A heat pump generates heat by extracting it from ambient air outside the house and transferring it by a refrigerant inside the house. The heat pump does not require a combustion flue since it does not burn a fuel.

System

A conventional heating and cooling system has a separate air-conditioning unit and a furnace. A heat pump is one unit that functions for both heating and cooling. The air-conditioning system will be idle during the heating season, and the furnace will be idle during the cooling season. Since a heat pump must do both heating and cooling, it runs year-round.

Applications

While a conventional heating and cooling system can be designed to handle the harshest climates, a heat pump works best in moderate climates where outside temperatures do not go below 40 degrees F for lengthy periods of time. Since the principle of a heat pump is to extract heat from outside ambient air, this process becomes more difficult and requires more energy as the outside temperature drops.

Efficiency

An air-conditioning system and a heat pump have similar fuel conversion efficiencies for the cooling cycle. For the heating season, a heat pump is more energy efficient as compared to a furnace because a heat pump transfers heat from one area to another instead of creating heat. A heat pump generates approximately two times more heat than the amount of energy consumed.

Initial Cost

The purchase and installation costs of heat pumps and heating and cooling systems will vary depending on each homeowner's particular situation and climate. While a heat pump will cost more as compared to a furnace or air-conditioner separately, the heat pump functions for both heating and cooling. A homeowner must obtain cost estimates for both types of systems to make an accurate comparison of purchase costs.

Operating Costs

The operating costs of an air-conditioning system and a heat pump are similar during the cooling season, but a heat pump will have energy and cost savings during the winter heating season. Energy costs for a heat pump are in the range of 25 to 30 percent less for heating as compared to a separate furnace heating system.

References

  • Department of Energy: Air-Source Heat Pumps
  • Department of Energy: Heat Pump Systems