Six Differences Between Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners

Heat pumps and air conditioners share all internal components; however, they differ in terms of their mode of operation. Heat pumps are the reverse refrigeration cycle while air conditioners operate on a regular vapor compression cycle. But, there are other ways these two machines differ. Keep reading to know more about heat pumps vs air conditioners.

Use or Function

Air conditioners are primarily used to cool spaces and maintain comfort during high temperatures. A heat pump is meant to keep a room heated during very low-temperature conditions. But, heat pumps can be used for both heating and cooling purposes while air conditioners are strictly used for cooling.


Both ACs and heat pumps have evaporators but they vary in terms of function and location. In an air conditioner, the evaporator is also called the cooling coil since the evaporator produces the cooling effect. It is located inside the room that should be cooled. The evaporator of a heat pump is placed outside the room to be heated. It absorbs the heat from the atmosphere that is at a lower temperature.


The condenser of a heat pump is designed to heat the room and is situated inside the room. The air in the room blows over the condenser, absorbs heat, and flows to the room to keep it hot. Meanwhile, the condenser of a heat pump releases the heat to the atmosphere and it is placed outside the room.

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps tend to use less electricity than air conditioners because they can produce more units of cooling per unit of energy used. Typically, people can save money on their energy bills when they use heat pumps.

Coefficient of Performance

A heat pump’s coefficient of performance is always more than one while the one for an air conditioner can be more or less than one, depending on the atmospheric temperature, the room, and the total amount of heat inside the space.

Installation Cost

Often, air conditioners are lower in installation costs than heat pumps. They are usually the more affordable choice for homeowners who want to stick to a limited installation budget. Compared to geothermal heat pump systems, air-sourced heat pumps are more affordable because the former requires an extensive ground loop system for operation.

In terms of home comfort, people may not have to think about anything else; however, they should review the pros and cons of every heating and cooling system. This will make sure they purchase a system that works when extreme temperatures hit or invest in extra systems when one would suffice.

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