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By Tom Moor
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Posted 8/1/23
heat pump and hvac installer

In this age of high energy costs and decarbonization, choosing the right cooling system for our homes is crucial. The two main options are heat pump vs. central air conditioner.

Shopping for a new cooling system?

Heat pumps

Heat pumps operate as both heating and cooling systems. In cooling mode, they take heat from the internal air of the home and pump it to the outdoors. To produce heat, they collect it from outside and move it inside.

A high-efficiency heat pump is more desirable in areas with extreme temperature highs and lows. In cold climates, heat pumps use internal burners to melt ice and push warm air into the house, which may elevate operating costs.

In 2023, many U.S. homeowners may be eligible for free or reduced-cost heat pumps as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Learn more about heat pumps:

Central air conditioners

Air conditioners manufacture cool air by evaporating refrigerant. There are coils both inside (for cold air) and outside (for warm air).

AC units contain a compressor to change refrigerant into hot, high-pressure gas that travels through the coils. As it does so, it loses its heat and becomes liquid;. The liquid, in turn, goes through a valve and evaporates into cold, low-pressure gas. When the gas enters the coils, it absorbs the indoor heat and lowers the temperature.

Learn more about central air conditioners:

How to decide: Heat pump vs. central air conditioner

Heat pumps and central ACs both provide whole-home cooling. But depending on your unique situation, one may be better suited to your home.

Heat pumpCentral air conditioner
Cools your whole home
Heats your whole home
Eligible for Inflation Reduction Act rebates
Better for mild climates
Better for extreme climates
Longer lifespan
Less expensive
More energy-efficient

One of the major advantages of a heat pump is that it heats and cools your home. So, while an air conditioner is more expensive than a heat pump, a heat pump is less expensive than buying an air conditioner and a furnace.

Need help choosing which system is right for you? Our certified HVAC technicians can help.

Connect with a heating and cooling expert.