While Ontario has its fair share of winter weather, there’s no question that the summers can be just as uncomfortable if your home isn’t properly set up to handle the weather. If you’re in the market for a new or replacement cooling system, the question of whether to choose an air conditioner or heat pump is likely on your mind.
To make an informed decision, you’ll need to know how each system works, the costs associated with each, and ultimately, which one will work best for you and your family. So let’s take a deeper look at these two cooling systems available to Ottawa homeowners.
How Does an Air Conditioner Work?
An air conditioner works by moving heat from one area to another. For example, warm air inside your home is circulated through the indoor components of the system, where it passes over the evaporator coil. The refrigerant within the coil pulls heat out of the air, then moves to the outdoor unit that dissipates that heat outside.
Essentially, all an air conditioner does is remove the heat from your indoor spaces and put it outside. It doesn’t produce any cold temperatures on its own to infuse inside your home.
How Does a Heat Pump Work?
A heat pump works almost the same as an air conditioner to cool your home: it moves heat from one air source to another. But that’s where the similarities between these two systems end.
Unlike air conditioning, a heat pump can also heat your home by reversing the process when outdoor temperatures drop. It has a reversing valve that can switch the system from cooling to heating, depending on the season. When your home needs heat, the condenser coil in the outdoor unit extracts heat from the outside air. The refrigerant absorbs the heat, moving it into the indoor unit’s evaporator coils. Heat is then emitted from the evaporator coils and circulates throughout your home.
There are three types of heat pumps: air source, water source, and geothermal. Also, there are many trusted brands like Mitsubishi Zuba heat pumps. Check out our guide to buying heat pumps if you’re looking for more information on the choice.
Air Source Heat Pump
An air-source heat pump moves heat from one place to another (inside to outside or vice versa). They can be ducted or ductless systems and are quiet, affordable, and energy-efficient for your Ottawa home.
Water source heat pumps draw water through their system and extract heat from the liquid rather than from the air. Either groundwater or a nearby body of water is used to supply heat. These are not common in the Ottawa area.
Geothermal Heat Pump
Geothermal systems use an added component—a ground loop—that carries or deposits heat to or from the ground below your yard. These are very complex systems that are costly to install and repair. Like water source pumps, geothermal systems aren’t common in Ottawa.
Most heat pump systems are slightly more than the cost of central air conditioners.
If you’re installing a heat pump, the type of heat pump system you get will affect your installation price. Air source heat pumps are far more affordable than geothermal heat pumps due to the requirement for installing the ground loop system. You might expect energy savings on your utility bill from your heat pump heating your home. Conventional air conditioners are less expensive to purchase, maintain, and operate. Heat pumps provide cold air more efficiently, which means less on your monthly energy bill.
Cost of Operation
Utility bills are always a factor to consider when choosing a heat pump vs an air conditioner. Both systems measure efficiency using SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). Air conditioner and heat pump efficiency will be the same if both units have similar SEER ratings.
Cold climate heat pumps are the most efficient, boasting high SEER ratings, and operation down to -30 C.
Under moderate conditions, you won’t notice too much of a difference between heat pumps and air conditioners. However, when temperatures soar and the difference between the cool air inside and the hot air outside becomes greater, air conditioning systems’ cooling efficiency lessens.
On the other side of things, during moderately cold weather, a heat pump provides energy-efficient heating using electricity, which might be less costly to operate than traditional heating fuel sources like natural gas, oil, or propane. But as temperatures drop below freezing, the heat pump requires more energy to maintain a comfortable indoor air temperature. As a result, most systems lose their heating efficiency below freezing. In extremely cold regions of the country, you’d be better served with an air conditioning and furnace combination.
Heat Pumps Work by Cooling and Heating
If you’re looking for a single system that can manage your home’s heating and cooling needs, a heat pump is your best choice—an air conditioner can’t transfer heat inside your home, only out.
With a heat pump, you have both systems in one. The heating mode is simply the reverse process of its cooling mode. However, this heating system has limitations, and in Canada, those are almost certain to be reached yearly.
For Heat Pump & AC Installation, Turn to Ottawa Home Services
Whether you’re looking to replace an aging air conditioning unit or purchase a new cooling system, the experts at Ottawa Home Services are available to help you take the guesswork out of the decision. With qualified technicians who know the ins and outs of both systems, we’re ready to provide you with information, quality equipment, and skilled installation services.