The Land of The Long White Cloud often sees varying climates, from subtropical summers in the north to freezing cold winters in the south. To help you stay comfortable regardless of where you live, it may be wise to invest in an air conditioner or a heat pump.
With this guide, we’ll walk you through the differences between each machine and how to choose one for your home. We’ll also cover the basic costs associated with these cooling and heating systems so you can prepare a proper budget.
What’s the difference between heat pumps and ACs?
Though both of these systems provide temperature control capabilities, only heat pumps are capable of heating and cooling a space. Air conditioners, on the other hand, must be paired with a furnace to provide heating capabilities.
The ability to heat and cool spaces makes heat pumps ideal for places that experience both hot temperatures and moderately cold climates. It’s worth noting, however, that heat pumps are less efficient in extremely cold climates.
As you can guess, air conditioners will work best for those living in places with a strictly warm or hot climate.
As for efficiency, it depends on the environment. Interestingly enough, an air conditioner-and-furnace system is actually more efficient than a heat pump in freezing climates.
If you happen to live in an extremely cold area, your money may be better spent on an actual furnace or heater as opposed to a heat pump.
Types of ACs and Heat Pump Systems
With the differences between ACs and heat pumps outlined, it’s time to explore the basic systems for each machine.
Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioning systems function by first cooling large quantities of air in a single location then distributing this air throughout a structure via a system of ducts and fans. These systems are excellent for keeping a consistent temperature all year round.
Now, it should be noted that these systems require extensive preparation and installation if a home is not pre-equipped with ducts. Aside from needing a well-developed ventilation system, these types of air conditioners also carry hefty installation and operation fees.
Window Air Conditioning
Window AC units are extremely budget-friendly and easy to install, making them great for those who don’t want to invest in a large central unit. As their name suggests, these types of air conditioners can be installed in most windows for quick cooling.
Given their compact size, these types of units are specifically suited to smaller spaces such as single rooms and studio apartments. In addition, they also require proper supports to hold up the section of the unit that hangs out of the window.
Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner
Mini-split air conditioners are commonly found in many homes due to their sleek, compact design, and their ability to cool rooms efficiently. These systems are made up of an outdoor compressor and an indoor airflow unit.
Much like window units, mini-split ACs are relatively easy to install but they have the added benefit of being far more energy-efficient. Unfortunately, this higher level of efficiency comes with a higher price tag: it’s about 30% more expensive than centralized systems.
Window Heat Pumps
Like their air-cooling counterparts, window heat pumps are typically mounted in window frames to allow for fast heat distribution. Unfortunately, these types of heat pumps also share the same drawbacks.
With this in mind, window heat pumps are best suited for heating small, compact spaces such as bedrooms.
Ductless Heat Pumps
Ductless heat pumps are similar in form to mini-split air conditioners in that they have both an interior and exterior unit. Since they do not rely on ducts to move air, they have a higher level of efficiency compared to window heat pumps.
These units are also much smaller and quieter than standard, run-of-the-mill centralized heaters which utilize extremely large exterior units to treat large volumes of air.
How much do ACs and heat pumps cost?
Both heat pumps and ACs come with a set of costs that include installation and the price of the actual units themselves. The latter will almost always be more expensive, with heat pumps and ACs ranging from $750 to $1350 per unit.
What’s more, most two-man installation jobs will be from $750 to $900. This can differ slightly based on your specific installation needs but for the most part, two technicians will usually be enough.
For some high-energy units, it may be necessary to enlist the help of an electrician during installation. This can also add to overall installation fees, since electricians will charge a separate fee.
Putting these costs together, the total price of buying and installing either a heat pump or AC will be from $2300 to $3500. In certain cases, extremely high quality heat pumps can cost as much as $6500, taking into account unit pricing as well as installation.
One of the biggest expenses when it comes to centralized ACs and heat pumps is that of duct installation. This process can sometimes require the services of a home builder or a construction team and can run upwards of $2000.
If this seems a bit excessive, you’ll be happy to know that there are a few alternatives that are a bit friendlier to your wallet. For example, as long as you don’t experience sweltering heat in your area, a cooling fan may be just as effective as an AC unit while only being a fraction of the cost.
While it is certainly possible to keep your home nice and cool, your back yard deck can be a different story, though. For this purpose, an awning may be a more cost-effective investment since it will serve to keep you cool and also shelter you from the sun.
Overall, both ACs and heat pumps have their own unique pros and cons. As a rule of thumb, heat pumps work best for moderately cold and warm climates while ACs will work best for those dwelling in areas that experience warm and sometimes hot temperatures.
That wraps up our brief guide to heat pumps and air conditioners. We certainly hope this will be of use to you as you go about choosing a unit for your home.