What’s The Difference Between a Heat Pump and AC?

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When it is time to replace your cooling system, you may be wondering if an air conditioner or heat pump is better for your space. This is an important choice for home comfort, so it’s important to know the pros and cons of each before choosing!

Our team at Super Heat & Air discusses the differences between heat pumps and air conditioning systems to help you choose the best system to keep you cool.

Heat Pump Vs. Air Conditioner

Heat pumps are functionally the same as a conventional AC system in many ways. Although many people think that air conditioners work by adding cool air to your space, they actually work by removing heat from the air and discharging it outdoors.

However, while air conditioner only pumps heat in one direction, to create cooling, heat pumps work by pumping heat in or out of a space. Because they can pump heat in both directions—from the inside to outside for cooling, and from the outside to inside for heating—heat pumps are basically air conditioners that can also provide heat.

One thing to note regarding heat pumps: although a heat pump can heat your home, if the outside temperatures drop below freezing (which doesn’t happen often in Florida!) the efficiency of the heat pump can dwindle.

Pros and Cons of AC Units and Heat Pumps

Here are some pros and cons for each of these systems:

Pros of Using a Heat Pump

  • Energy-efficient
  • May qualify for a tax rebate
  • Conditions air more efficiently, which can reduce utility bills

Cons of Using a Heat Pump

  • Not ideal for cold climates
  • More expensive base price to install
  • Shorter lifespan

Pros of Using Air Conditioner 

  • Works in any climate
  • Less expensive to maintain, operate, and install
  • Longer lifespan

Cons of Using Air Conditioner

  • Higher monthly operating costs
  • Needs a separate heat source like a gas or electric furnace
  • May not qualify for rebates

Which System is Right for You?

Both systems are a great choice, especially in Florida, but one might be more appropriate for you, depending on your situation. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a system to heat and cool your home:

Cost to Install

While a heat pump has a lower overall cost, the outdoor unit can have a higher upfront cost compared to an air conditioner. When you consider the cost, it is important to understand the total costs to install a system if you want both heating and cooling.

Cost to Operate/ Energy Efficiency 

In moderately cold temperatures, like those during Florida winters, heat pumps can provide energy-efficiency heating for your home. They can be less costly to operate compared to systems that use more expensive heating sources like oil, propane, or natural gas.

In cooling mode, both heat pumps and air conditioners come in models with high SEER ratings, for energy-efficient cooling during the hot summer months. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient an AC or heat pump unit is.

Heat pump efficiency is expressed in HSPF when the system is in heating mode. The higher the HSPF, the higher the efficiency of the heat pump.

In many ways, the energy efficiency and cost to operate these systems come down to your location. In areas with moderate to warmer winter temperatures like Florida, a heat pump can be a better option than those in areas with extremely cold winters.


One important factor to consider is the longevity of your heat pump or air conditioner. While several variables can influence the life expectancy of an HVAC system, AC units typically last longer than heat pumps.

Why? Well, heat pumps heat and cool a home year-round, so they can wear out faster than an HVAC unit that is only used seasonally.

Some of the potential downsides of a shorter heat pump life expectancy may be offset by its efficiency during the winter months.

Of course, seasonal tune-ups from a Super Heat & Air technician can extend the life of your heat pump or air conditioner and keep it running at its maximum energy efficiency year-round.

Choose the Right Cooling System for You

If you need help choosing the right cooling system, call Super Heat & Air for a consultation! We will help you decide which system will be the most efficient for your space and your heating and cooling needs.

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