Does a heat pump replace an air conditioner?

Traditional air conditioners are known for helping to reduce temperatures inside your home.

Heat pumps are designed to do the opposite by extracting heat from the air outside your home and transferring it to the central heating system inside.

So, can a heat pump replace an air conditioning unit? Could you effectively use a heat pump to achieve a cooling effect in the summer month and still benefit from the energy efficient heating of a heat pump in the winter?

The answer is yes. However, dual heating and cooling systems are far less common in the U.K. than they are in countries where temperature fluctuations differ drastically.

How a Heat Pump Can Cool Your Property

Heat pumps work by using an external fan to drive air from outside your property into pipes which connect to a condenser unit, this condenser unit extracts heat from the incoming air which is then transferred into water within the central heating system via a heat exchanger.

The heated water is pushed around the heating system and directed to your hot water tanks to offer you a steady supply of heat from radiators and hot water from your taps.

In the summer, to help cool the interior of your property, it is possible with some heat pumps to reverse the process and cool the internal temperatures of your home.

In cooling mode, rather than cooling the water within your heating system, which would have very little impact on the ambient temperature within your property, a heat pump would extract the heat from the air within your property and return the cooled air helping to reduce the internal temperatures.

The hot interior air is pumped into the exchanger unit where it is expelled from your home via the external fan.

The cooled air is then circulated throughout your home via a ventilation system that delivers cool air to each room.

Air to air heat pump systems can do this without any additional technology requirements.

However, hydronic heat pump systems, those that heat your home through underfloor heating, will need to have additional technology installed in your home if you would like to operate your heat pump as an air conditioning and cooling system as well as a central heating and hot water source. Fan assisted radiators can provide cooling with hydronic heat pumps.

Mitubishi, Samsung and Viessman all sell heat pumps that can offer cooling.

Viessman even sell active and passive cooling AC boxes and NC box attachments that can help you set up your heat pump so it can offer interior cooling when temperatures rise in the summer.

Consider an HVAC System

HVAC systems take care of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling. This means, as well as heating and cooling, handled by the heat pump, you’ll also benefit from getting a steady stream of fresh air into your home through the ventilation process and control things like; humidity, air purity and air quality with effective air conditioning.

If you are looking to install a heat pump system on your property and you want the option of both heating and cooling you may want to consider an HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) also often referred to as “climate control systems”.

HVAC systems can be used to replace a traditional air conditioner and a home heating system like a gas or oil boiler and electrical heating systems.

In addition to heating and cooling functions, HVAC systems also offer ventilation which will help to circulate fresh air around your home.

Why Are Heat Pumps More Efficient for Heating and Cooling?

Heat pumps can be efficient for both heating and cooling your home because they don’t use electrical energy to generate heat, they extract ambient heat from external air when heating or from internal air when cooling with a component known as a refrigerant.

Electrical energy is then used to move the heat to where you want it, either into water pipes to generate hot water and heating or pushed out externally through an exhaust vent via a variable speed fan to help cool your property, transferring heat back outside.

A reversing valve installed correctly within your heat pump system can offer you the ability to switch easily from heating mode in the winter to cooling during the summer months.

This process makes heat pumps much more energy efficient than electrically powered air conditioning systems and, provided renewable energy is used to power them, a sustainable source of heating and cooling.

Why aren’t HVAC Systems Common in the UK?

Currently, temperature changes in the U.K. are less dramatic than in much of Europe and the U.S.A. The majority of U.K. properties do not have a cooling or ventilation system installed and those that do tend to be offices or commercial spaces.

This is because summer temperatures rarely reach high enough levels where interior cooling is required for protracted periods.

Even during warmer years, the maximum potential use you would expect from an air conditioner would be up to 3 months of continuous use.

However, as the U.K. moves away from relying on fossil fuels to provide heat and the adoption of heat pump systems increases, rates of HVAC system installation look set to increase.

If climate change continues to increase global temperatures and pollution levels continue to affect air quality, then many U.K. home and property owners may see heat pumps as a good way to improve their overall quality of life, while saving money on heating and energy costs because of the excellent cooling and air purifying properties of heat pumps.