Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Which is Right for Your Home?


It’s taken a while, but it looks like summer is finally on its way here in Atlantic Canada. In past years, air conditioners were much less common in our part of the world than they are elsewhere. But these days, with the climate warming up, homeowners across the region are looking for ways to help keep their homes cool and comfortable during the hot summer months.

But air conditioners aren’t the only way to keep your home cool. Heat pumps, which are an increasingly popular heating option here in Atlantic Canada, can also keep your home cool in the summer. Which is right for you and your family?

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

People often think of air conditioners as creating cool air that they then blow into your home, but what they’re actually doing is actively removing heat from your home. Heat pumps and air conditioners both operate on the same basic principle; they use a refrigerant to move thermal energy from one location to another. Removing heat from your home has the effect of cooling the interior, while the heat is released into the environment outside.

The main difference between air conditioners and heat pumps is that air conditioners only work one way (moving heat from indoors to outdoors) while heat pumps can work in both directions. This means heat pumps can keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Air conditioners need to be paired with a separate heat source in order to keep your home comfortable all year, while heat pumps can do the job alone in many climates.

Do Heat Pumps Work as Well as Air Conditioners?

Heat pumps and air conditioners are both very efficient cooling systems. The standard measurement for air conditioners and heat pumps in cooling mode is called the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). SEER is calculated by taking the total cooling provided (measured in BTU) divided by the total amount of electricity used (measured in watts). The higher the SEER score, the less energy it takes for the equipment to cool the air, so the cheaper it is to control the temperature in your home.

In Canada, the minimum SEER rating required for heat pumps is 13. It’s not uncommon to see SEER ratings for high-quality air conditioners or heat pumps in the 20s. Heat pumps work as well as air conditioners in that heat pumps and air conditioners with the same SEER rating will be just as effective as each other. Although it’s often possible to find an air conditioner with a better SEER rating than a heat pump that costs the same, an air conditioner is only useful in the warmer months, whereas a heat pump is useful year-round.

Are Heat Pumps or Air Conditioners Best for Your Family?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The answer boils down to the climate you live in and the way you prefer to manage the temperature of your home. However, a big factor for homeowners in Atlantic Canada is that our climate is perhaps the ideal one for a heat pump.

In Atlantic Canada, we get hot summers, but not so hot that air conditioners are overloading our power grids, and we get long cold winters, but not nearly as cold as some other parts of the country. This means that Atlantic Canadian homeowners can generally rely on a heat pump alone to keep their homes comfortable all year long (perhaps with a backup heat source for the very coldest days).

If you would like to find out more about whether a heat pump or an air conditioner is best for your home, find a dealer near you to book a free in-home assessment. You can also download our product catalogue to learn more about the Daikin line of heat pumps.