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Heat Pump vs Central Air

What’s the difference between Heat Pump vs Central Air

Cooling Capacity

Central air is more powerful than a heat pump. Central air generates 18,000 – 60,000 BTUs of cooling power. By contrast, a typical heat pump offers 10,000 – 24,000 BTUs of cooling power.

Those numbers are for typical options in either category. Both heat pumps and central air are quite flexible in terms of cooling capacity. You can find heat pumps that have 60,000 BTUs of cooling as well. 

A BTU is a measure of the cooling capacity of an air conditioning system. One BTU is the amount of thermal energy needed to change the temperature of a kilogram of water by a single degree Fahrenheit. 


Central air and heat pumps cost roughly the same amount. Both types of air conditioners will cost you $4,000 – $8,000. The exact price depends mostly on the specific model of air conditioner you choose. 

Both central air and heat pumps are quite expensive because they involve a lot of labour-intensive installation. Central air requires your installer to introduce a lot of ducts into your home. Heat pumps are pretty involved as well, with some involving installing external units underground. 

Energy efficiency

Heat pumps and central air are well matched in terms of energy efficiency. Both are among the most efficient types of air conditioner on the market. 

You can calculate an air conditioner’s EER by dividing its cooling capacity in BTUs by the amount of watts of energy it uses. A higher EER means an air conditioner has greater efficiency.

Should I buy a Heat Pump vs Central Air?