Can a Heat Pump Cool a Home as Well as an Air Conditioner?

When it comes to home cooling systems, conventional central air conditioners and heat pumps are the most common in Maryland homes. If you’re familiar with these unit types, you know that air conditioners only cool air, but heat pumps provide both heating and cooling. This fact leads some to wonder whether a heat pump cools as well as an air conditioner, which Grove Heating & Cooling discusses in its most recent blog.

How Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Work

In regard to how air is cooled, heat pumps and air conditioners perform the same way, transferring heat between two sources following the same steps. 

  • Return air enters the indoor unit.
  • Air passes over the evaporator coils.
  • Refrigerant inside the evaporator coils absorbs heat from the air, which lowers air temperature and causes moisture to condense, dehumidifying the air. This process causes low pressure liquid refrigerant to convert to a hot, low-pressure gas.
  • Cooled, dehumidified air is circulated through the duct system and into the home using the blower. Refrigerant travels through the refrigerant lines to the outdoor unit.
  • The refrigerant gas reaches the outdoor unit and enters the compressor. The compressor increases refrigerant pressure and sends the high-pressure gas to the condenser coils.
  • Within the condenser coils, the refrigerant is able to release its heat into the surrounding air. This process causes refrigerant to condense into a high-pressure liquid.
  • Refrigerant cycles to the expansion valve, which limits its flow and lowers its pressure before it travels back into the evaporator coils to repeat the heat transfer process.

While air conditioners only cool, heat pumps heat and cool by simply reversing the process

  • To heat, the reversing valve reverses the flow of refrigerant through the system. Liquid refrigerant in the condenser coil absorbs heat energy from the outdoor air and converts to a cold gas. 
  • The gas moves into the compressor which increases its temperature and sends refrigerant to the evaporator coil. 
  • The hot refrigerant gas releases heat from within the evaporator coil as it condenses into a liquid form. Air flowing across the coil absorbs the heat.
  • Heated air is sent into the homes through ducts by the blower. 
  • The cool, liquid refrigerant cycles back to the condenser coil to repeat the heating process.

Does a Heat Pump Cool as Well as an Air Conditioner?

As cooling systems, heat pumps and air conditioners function the same. But, does a heat pump cool as well as an air conditioner? The answer is yes. These two types of heating and cooling units are practically the same when operating as cooling systems. Their cooling processes are the same, the two system types run about equal in terms of energy efficiency, and energy costs to operate heat pumps and air conditioners are about the same. 

One difference between the two systems is that heat pumps usually do a better job at dehumidifying air than air conditioners. This conserves electricity and makes the home feel more comfortable.

Advantages of Using a Heat Pump for Air Conditioning

Are there any advantages to using a heat pump instead of an air conditioner for cooling?  The answer to this question is also yes!

Heating Capabilities

While you won’t notice many differences regarding how a heat pump and an air conditioning system cool the air, the benefits come when it’s time to heat your home. Heat pumps function exceptionally well as heating systems in Maryland, as our seasonal highs and lows aren’t typically extreme.

  • Compared to electric resistance heating units like baseboards and electric furnaces, heat pumps reduce electricity consumption by about half thanks to much higher energy-efficiency levels. 
  • Heat pumps offer better heating energy efficiency than even high-efficiency natural gas furnaces. 
  • When conditions are ideal, a heat pump can transfer about 300 percent more heat energy than the electrical energy it consumes to do so. The highest efficiency gas furnaces offer 98% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency), which means only two percent of the energy consumed is wasted while 98 percent is converted into heat for the home.


Heat pumps are a more sustainable cooling option compared to air conditioners simply because of their heating qualities. Air conditioners are often paired with natural gas furnaces for heating, forcing the use of fossil fuels which results in higher carbon emissions than those generated by a heat pump’s electricity consumption. 


Without the use of fossil fuels or the combustion process for heating, heat pumps are safer to operate with a minimal risk of fire, and no risk of gas explosion or carbon monoxide exposure.

Heat Pump Services for Maryland Homeowners

Does a heat pump cool as well as an air conditioner? Yes, it does. While air conditioners and heat pumps are seemingly equal in terms of cooling, a heat pump offers heating advantages that just aren’t possible from an air conditioner. Call Grove Heating & Cooling today to learn more about our heat pump options and request an estimate for heat pump installation.

Google Reviews