Heat Pumps vs Air Conditioners or AC: System, Working, Efficiency, Cost

In this article, we will learn the comparison between heat pumps vs air conditioners or AC along with a basic explanation in terms of working, system, efficiency, and cost and we will focus on the application in automotive industries as well. We live in an era where technology is evolving faster than you think. There is no exception to this rule in the automobile industry. People are adopting electric vehicles at a rapid pace because they are concerned about the environment. Air conditioning is now considered a norm in automotive technology: 96 percent of cars sold in 2022 had air conditioning. A vehicle’s air conditioning needs range from 5 to 15 percent of its propulsion energy in summer months.

Heat Pumps vs Air Conditioners or AC

Define Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are devices that transfer heat from one location to another using the least amount of energy possible. The process of heating & cooling can be accomplished using heat pumps. There are two types of heat pumps: heat pumps that transfer heat from the inside to the outside and heat pumps that remove heat from the inside to the outside.

heat pumps vs air conditioners ac system working efficiency cost
Heat pumps vs air conditioners ac system working efficiency cost

Define Air Conditioners

The principle behind car air conditioners is the same as that of your room air conditioner or refrigerator. This is a heat exchange principle at its core. The process by which liquids convert from liquid to gas and back to liquid, absorbing or releasing heat. The expansion of an object absorbs heat.

Working of Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner or AC

Heat Pump Workflow

The functioning of heat pumps is similar to that of conventional air conditioners in many ways. One notable difference is that heat pumps can reverse themselves to provide heating when required. This is essentially a reverse-activated air conditioner.

A heat pump can only pump heat from inside to outside, so an air conditioner is essentially a heat pump. Heat pumps are HVAC systems that pump heat inside or outside, although technically an air conditioner can be called a heat pump.

Air Conditioners Workflow

There is a similar process for transferring heat energy between air conditioners, heat pumps, and refrigerators. You may have noticed that the coils behind your refrigerator can get hot to the touch if you’ve ever looked behind it. This is where the heat from inside the refrigerator is emitted.

It is true that air conditioners and refrigerators produce cool air in indoor spaces, but they actually remove heat from the air. This system absorbs heat inside and then disperses it outside. As a result, the interior air cools down. The reverse operation of a heat pump is to remove heat from the outdoor space, then transfer it inside of your home to heat your home.

Heat Pumps or Air Conditioners or AC: Which One Do You Want?

You can find out whether your outdoor unit is a heat pump or an air conditioner by checking the manufacturer’s sticker. After that, you can identify the model number and write it down. If you are now backing inside, you will need to enter the number into your internet search engine. Based on the results, you will be able to determine what kind of system you have.

Heat Pump Workflow in Electric Cars in Winter

Cabins in the winter can get very cold & passengers feel uncomfortable sitting in them. Heat is extracted from other parts of the car and used to heat the cabin through a heat pump. It is not necessary for an electric vehicle to use its battery to generate power to heat its cabin using a resistive heater. 1kW of electric energy is converted into 3kW of thermal energy by a heat pump. 

Air Conditioners Effects on Electric Vehicle’s Power Consumption

Electric cars become more critical as their range decreases by the same percentage as internal combustion engine cars. A warm interior is less desirable in the cold winter than an air conditioned interior in hot weather. Waste heat from internal combustion engines can heat the cabin almost for free in vehicles with internal combustion engines.

In electric vehicles, this heat source does not exist, so using the battery to heat the car electrically can reduce the range by up to 30 percent. If the air conditioner can operate as a heat pump, the energy consumption & range reduction will be much smaller.

Difference between Heat Pumps & Air Conditioners

Efficiency for Heat Pumps & Air Conditioners

Heat Pump: The more efficient a heat pump is, the higher its seasonal energy efficiency rating. The higher the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, the more efficient the heating system will be. Electric heaters can increase energy consumption when a heat pump is in heat mode and in heat mode.

Air Conditioners: Anyone who uses a central air conditioner on a regular basis can see the impact of the unit’s utility costs. Most central air conditioners use 3,000 watts per hour, but they usually run for 15 minutes every two hours.

Easy DIY for Heat Pump vs AC

Heat Pump: You should leave the installation of central air conditioners to a professional unless you have an HVAC background or experience. It is important to understand that heat pumps are complex machines that can cause problems for your home if they are not installed correctly.

Air Conditioners: You can install an air conditioner yourself, but most manufacturers won’t recommend it due to the potential for incorrect installation.

Appearance for Heat Pump & Air Conditioner

There are many similarities between heat pumps and air conditioners, not only in their functions, but also in their appearance. Using the manufacturing sticker, finding the emergency heat setting, turning on the heat and checking the outdoor unit for a reverse valve or turning on the heat will help you distinguish between the two.

Cost Comparison between Heat Pumps vs Air Conditioners

Heat Pump: A heat pump can cost anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000 dollars, depending on its size and efficiency. There is a wide range of prices for heat pump systems, ranging from around 4,000 to 7,000 dollars, depending on the size of your home and the type of system you choose.

Air Conditioner: Depending on the type and need of your home, air conditioners can cost between 3,000 and 7,000 dollars.

Durability for Heat Pumps & Air Conditioners

Heat Pump: It takes a heat pump about 15 years to reach the end of its lifecycle. It takes them around ten years to develop in coastal regions, and it takes them closer to twenty-five years in moderate climates.

Air Conditioner: Typically, an air conditioner lasts 15 to 20 years, but it will also depend on the type of climate and the maintenance provided to it.

Which One Do You Choose for Your Car Heat Pumps or Air Conditioners?

Depending on your climate region, a heat pump can be a smart choice for your home because of its energy efficiency. A heat pump needs to use more energy if your region regularly experiences temperatures below 40 degrees.

When you aren’t going to be using your air conditioner frequently, and your climate doesn’t require it to run all the time, an air conditioner can prove to be a better investment for you. The lifespan of air conditioners tends to be a little longer and their costs are lower, but their operating costs may be higher as well.

Wrapping it Up

The winter months are the time of year when you need heating the most, so you might wonder how a heat pump can remove heat from the exterior. Well, think about the fact that your freezer is extremely cold, but it still transfers heat from the cold environment inside to the coils behind it. Despite the fact that cold environments lack heat energy, there is still heat energy present. Unless the temperature is extremely cold, this process will not work.

Can You Use Heat Pump on your Car in Hot Weather?

Since heat pumps are used for both heating and cooling during the hot summers, you might ask yourself this question. A heat pump absorbs the excess heat from the cabin and releases it into the atmosphere using an external capacitor which acts as a heater and cooling device.
Winter poses some challenges for electric vehicles. A winter cabin in an electric vehicle can be hard to keep warm. A heat pump can help us address this issue easily.


Hello Everyone! We, Rituparna Guha & Firan Mondal, are delighted to present our Mechanical Engineering articles. We will capture all types of articles and try to explain in the simplest way with a lot of diagrams! Happy Reading....

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