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What is the difference between an air-to-air heat pump and an air conditioner?

Nothing – but did you know air-to-air heat pumps can heat as well as cool?

Room with big window, wooden table, and a black wall-mounted climate solution

People often think that air-to-air heat pumps and air conditioners are different, but in fact they're the same thing. However, as well as delivering cool air, air-to-air heat pumps can also provide heating. Here’s a brief guide to how they work.

Most people know that air conditioning cools the air and distributes it around a space. But what is less well-known is that it can also work in reverse, providing a heating solution for your home so you can live in comfort all year round.

Units that both heat and cool the air are more commonly known as air-to-air heat pumps, whereas units that only have a cooling function are known as air conditioners. Demand for units that can heat as well as cool is taking off, and people are finding that air-to-air heat pumps are the perfect solution for their homes.

How do you get cool and warm air from the same unit?

Air-to-air heat pumps work on a split system, where one or more indoor units connect to an outdoor unit on a building's exterior wall or roof, or on the ground outside. The system contains refrigerant, which transfers heat from one part of the system to another.

When cooling, the air-to-air heat pump extracts heat from the air inside your home and releases it outside, working in much the same way as a refrigerator. It emits cool air into your rooms via wall-mounted, floor-standing or ceiling-concealed units.

When heating, the heat pump extracts heat from the outside air and releases it inside via the indoor units.

If you have a “multi-split” system – with one outdoor heat pump unit connected to up to five indoor units – you can adjust the temperature in each room. So, you can have your living space warmer than your bedroom. However, air-to-air heat pumps cannot provide cooling and heating at once – you can only heat or cool at any one time.

Three friends happily playing a board game in perfect temperature
Living room with couch in it and a wall-mounted climate solution above it

How do you choose the best solution for your home?

If you want a system that cools and heats your home to the right temperature all year round in an energy-efficient way, investigate air-to-air heat pumps. They give you maximum versatility and performance, whatever the weather. If you only want to cool your home, choose an air conditioner.

In summary, an air-to-air heat pump is air conditioner and a heating system in one. You can even link it to a hot water tank. No wonder so many people are seeing the benefits.