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A-1 Mechanical Blog

Is a Heat Pump an Upgrade from an Air Conditioner?


If you’ve never had a heat pump, it might seem like a new-fangled gadget. It’s just in recent years that they’ve gotten so popular. But the fact of the matter is, it’s based on technology that’s over 150 years old, and they’ve been in use in some American homes about as long as air conditioners. That said, if they’re not familiar to you, you might have some questions.

How do heat pumps work? What makes them different from air conditioners? Are they better? Would a heat pump be an upgrade? We’ve got the answers for you.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Just like an air conditioner, a heat pump has a compressor in the outdoor unit. This pressurizes refrigerant, a chemical that absorbs heat when it evaporates and releases heat when it condenses. The refrigerant flows through a system of coils. It soaks up the heat in one location and allows it to dissipate in another. 

What Makes a Heat Pump Different from an Air Conditioner?

There’s really just one component that makes a huge impact on what a heat pump can do. It’s called the reversing valve, and it’s in the outdoor unit. It looks a little bit like a brass instrument. The refrigerant flows into the reversing valve, and depending on which apertures are open and allow the refrigerant through, the direction of the refrigerant flow can be reversed.

Now, instead of always absorbing heat indoors to cool your home, it can absorb heat from outdoors instead! That heat can be carried into your home to warm it. And it works even at surprisingly low temperatures. Just like it doesn’t have to be cool outside for the air conditioner to cool your home, it doesn’t have to be warm outside for the heat pump to warm your home.

Are Heat Pumps Better than Air Conditioners?

If you’re looking to get a new AC system, anything you get will be an upgrade from a ten- or twelve-year-old air conditioner. Everything on the market today is more effective and efficient than what was available back then. And heat pumps are very efficient at cooling, comparable to the higher-efficiency air conditioners. But would a heat pump really be a better choice?

There are two things to consider. The first is their ability to heat your home. If your heating system is aging and you want to take some pressure off it or replace it entirely, it’s a great time to get a heat pump instead of an air conditioner. But also, a heat pump is so astonishingly efficient at heating that if you want to cut your utility bills and do the earth a favor, it’s definitely the best choice.

The second consideration is cost. While investing in any new major appliance can be costly, the efficiency of a heat pump means that you can get tax incentives when you buy one. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides benefits that make purchasing a heat pump more affordable.

If you have any further questions about whether you should upgrade to a heat pump from an AC in Okemos, MI, we’d love to talk with you about it.

Contact A-1 Mechanical Heating & Cooling for heat pump installation, maintenance, and repair in Lansing, MI. Comfort and Character You Can Depend On.

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