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Heat Pumps vs Air Conditioners: What's the difference and which one should I get?

A heat pump or ductless AC system

Many homes in the Northeast were built without air conditioning systems, but that doesn't mean that these homeowners don’t have to suffer through several scorching heat waves each year.

If you want to be comfortable year-round, you need to choose the right cooling system for your home. Air conditioning systems are the most common because they are simple and efficient. They pull warm air through the intake vent, remove the heat as the air passes over the cooling coils, and then pump the chilled air back out into your home. If you want additional features, such as heating ability, you may want to consider an alternative method to a regular air conditioning system such as a heat pump.

What is a heat pump and how does it work?

A ductless heat pump, also known as a ductless mini-split AC system, is basically an air conditioning system that runs in two directions. To understand how it works, it's important to remember that an air conditioning system pulls hot air out of your home rather than sending cold air in. When a heat pump is in cooling mode, it does the same thing — it sucks out the hot air and sends it outside. When a heat pump is in heating mode, it switches directions and pumps heat from the outside air into your home. Yes, there is heat in the outside air even on the coldest of days, but because there is less heat, a heat pump loses efficiency as the temperature drops. The advantage to a heat pump is that you don't need to install and maintain separate heating and cooling systems.

Pros and cons:

Ductless Mini-Split AC Systems
with Heat Pump

Regular Air Conditioning Systems

All-in-one solutionTypically, lower cost for installation
Lower combined installation and maintenance costsMost efficient cooling method
Uses less space than two systemsAble to choose a lower capacity unit
Needs to be more powerful than a dedicated air conditioner to deliver enough heatNo heating
Slightly less energy efficientAdded costs to install and maintain separate heat
Electric heat is often more expensive than gas heatTwo systems may use more space in your home

Which one is right for my home?

Ask Petro about our different AC options for your home

This depends on your goals for your home. If you already have an efficient heating system that's in good working order and want to add cooling, your best option is probably to go with a regular air conditioning system. If you have a new home or need to replace your HVAC systems, you need to weigh the costs and benefits. Ductless mini-split AC systems with heat pumps work best in areas with mild climates and short winters. If you try to use a heat pump as your sole heat source through weeks and months of frigid weather, the added electricity costs will quickly eat up any installation cost savings. In those cases, you're probably better off with a natural gas furnace. Another option is to use a heat pump as a supplemental heat source if your furnace doesn't heat up certain rooms in your home as much as you'd like.

Need more help?

Are you interested in installing a ductless mini-split AC system with a heat pump or air conditioning system? We offer a variety of home cooling systems and can help you determine which one is best for your home. If you show us a utility bill and tell us about your home's insulation and construction, we can help you calculate the costs of operating each type of system and compare that to the installation costs. That way, you can make an informed decision that's best for your wallet and comfort. Contact Petro Home Services or request a free quote to get started today.

Petro Home Services is proud to not only serve communities in DC, CT, MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, and RI but we also proudly acknowledge the skills and experience of our expert team behind all resources. With insights on topics ranging from heating oil facts to common air conditioning questions, you can rely on Petro Home Services for facts and information to help you understand more about your heating, cooling and home comfort needs. This article and all articles on the Petro Home Services website have been approved by our team of home service experts.