Heat pumps and air conditioners have the same working principle. Strictly speaking, most residential air conditioners are also a kind of heat pumps (air to air heat pumps), but here we only talk about what they should be like in normal people’s mind, that means we would like to compare air source heat pumps with residential air conditioners.
They maybe have same functions, but their specialties are different.
As we all know, residential air conditioners normally have cooling function and heating function, only a small part of them have cooling function only, which are used in hot areas where heating is not necessary at all in winter. An air source heat pump is mainly used for house heating, as well as domestic hot water, some even have cooling function. To make a correct choice for your house, we must clearly know that the specialty of an air conditioner is cooling, however a heat pump is specialized in heating and hot water generation.
Heat pumps can create a more comfortable environment in heating mode
An air source heat pump heats warm water for the first step, the heated warm water are circulated inside water pipes and gives out heat via indoor heat exchangers, generally those heat exchangers are underfloor heating pipes or radiators. So the house is averagely and quietly heated up, room air are kept in natural flow state. By contrast, air conditioner directly heat the room air via strong air flow, which makes the room noisy and dry, the upside of the room is warm but the lower side is cold. So people will feel uncomfortable in an air conditioner heating room.
Heat pumps can produce hot water, but air conditioners can not
Except heating, producing hot water is also an important function of heat pumps. This function (DHW function) brings great benefits to house owners. A house heating heat pump can not only help to reduce the investment of the hot water equipment, but also can save up to 75% electricity consumption compared with an electrical water heater. There are some hot water heat pumps specially designed for hot water. Especially in commercial buildings, commercial hot water heat pumps can bring great benefits not only to energy bill but also to environmental protection.
Heat pumps are efficient in heating, but air conditioners are efficient in cooling
In heating mode, especially for underfloor heating, warm water with low temperature is enough for heating (e.g. 35℃ warm water), heat pumps run very efficiently in this state. However air conditioners are much efficient during cooling mode, because the room air is directly cooled by the refrigerant, not like heat pumps which need two heat transfer procedures (refrigerant to water, water to air).
How to choose between heat pumps and air conditioners?
From the above comparison, you should already have an idea about how to choose a suitable equipment for your house. It depends on your local climate and your purpose: if you use it mostly for heating, choose a heat pump. If you are buying a cooling equipment, then choose an air conditioner. If you choose a hot water equipment, of course a heat pump.