Air conditioners and heat pumps are both HVAC systems that provide temperature control in buildings. The main difference between them is that air conditioners only provide cooling, while heat pumps can provide both cooling and heating.


An air conditioner works by removing heat from the air inside a building and transferring it outside, leaving cooler air behind. It does this using a refrigeration cycle that involves circulating refrigerant through the system to absorb heat and release it outside.

On the other hand, a heat pump can be used for both cooling and heating by reversing the refrigeration cycle. In cooling mode, it works like an air conditioner to remove heat from inside and release it outside. In heating mode, it reverses the cycle to extract heat from outside and transfer it inside.


Heat pumps are often more energy-efficient than traditional heating systems like furnaces, because they don’t create heat themselves, but rather move it from one place to another. This means that they can be a more cost-effective option for heating a building, particularly in moderate climates.

However, in colder climates, heat pumps may struggle to extract enough heat from the outdoor air to provide sufficient warmth, and may need a supplemental heating source like electric resistance heat to keep up with demand. In these situations, a furnace or boiler may be a better choice for heating.

What’s the Difference Between Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps?

In summary, the main difference between air conditioners and heat pumps is that heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling, while air conditioners only provide cooling. The choice between the two will depend on your climate, heating and cooling needs, and energy efficiency preferences.

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