It's a decision that many homeowners in Venice face when its time to replace a malfunctioning or aging heating or air conditioning system:
Should I install a heat pump or central air conditioning system and what exactly is the difference between the two, anyway?
How heat pumps and air conditioners work
First things first. What makes a heat pump a heat pump and an air conditioner an air conditioner? That can be a little complicated. Both use basically the same technology to operate, just in different ways. And that can have a big impact on the comfort level inside your home and in your wallet.
A heat pump relies on a closed loop system that circulates refrigerant so that hot air is blown inside your home during the winter and outside during the summer via what is known as a reversing valve. That means that heat pumps function as a heater during the colder months and as an air conditioner during the warmer months. Since heat pumps function to make your home comfortable all throughout the year, they can also help you keep your energy bills in check. In addition, many heat pumps operate more effectively in temperate climates like we enjoy here. They also use a multi-split ductless system to distribute air throughout your home.
Air conditioners use a closed loop system to circulate refrigerant that cools the air. The refrigerant makes it way through a compressor valve, which puts it under a lot of heat and pressure. The refrigerant then travels through a compressor coil, which siphons off the hot air to outside your home. This process changes the refrigerant into a liquid while it still remains under a great deal of pressure. The liquid is then moved through what is called an expansion valve and from there into a series of evaporator coils. As the liquid evaporates, it works to pull heat from the surrounding air and cools it. That cool air is then blown by a fan through a system of ducts into your home.
Which one is right for you?
By now you may be thinking that there's really not a lot of difference between a heat pump and a central air conditioning system - you're right.
The major differences between the two come into play when you consider how the operate in the winter. And while we who call Venice home may not need to run the heat as much during the colder months as our more northern neighbors do, it can get cold here, so consider the following advantages of heat pumps: Many models do not require additional equipment in order to heat your home, which can free up valuable living space for you, your family and friends. Heat pumps are generally more energy efficient that air conditioning systems, leaving you with more green in your wallet.
And if you are looking to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, heat pumps can be partnered with an energy efficient geothermal system such as solar panels and do not burn fossil fuels.
There are also advantages to a central air conditioning system, especially during the winter months. A central air conditioning system will not warm your home like a heat pump will. That means you'll probably use a separate furnace to keep you and your family warm and comfortable when its cold outside. And, furnaces do have several important advantages over heat pumps. They won't shut down when temperatures plummet, like many heat pumps will nor do they require auxiliary heating like heat pumps. Furnaces are also generally cheaper to install than heat pumps and have fewer maintenance problems as well.