Comparing Different HVAC Types

HVAC unit.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is made up of two units—the indoor air handling unit and the outdoor compressor. During installation, your HVAC technician will attach the external unit to the wall or raised on pads above the ground to avoid snow coverage. The indoor unit is installed high on the interior of the same wall as the external unit. The two units are connected by refrigerant lines through a small hole in the back of the internal unit.

How does a heat pump work?

Understanding HVAC units can be complicated. For starters, you need to understand that—contrary to popular belief—air conditioners don’t actually cool the air in your home. Most HVAC systems operate by removing the heat from your home, passing it through cooling coils in the evaporator, then blowing the warmer air back out the external unit.

Heat pumps work in the same way. For the simplest explanation, there is always some heat in the air. In the summer, a heat pump pulls the heat from the air inside your home to cool your home. In the winter, it essentially operates in reverse by pulling warm air from outside and pumping it back into your home!

How long does a heat pump last?

Individual factors notwithstanding your heat pump can be expected to last around 15 years on average. This does vary depending on the area you live in and how much you rely on your heat pump as well as how well the heat pump is maintained throughout its life.

What is a ductless mini-split?

A ductless mini-split is another name for a heat pump. Because this unit is generally best for older homes that don’t have existing ductwork, new home additions, or renovations, there’s no need for ducts. This, plus the system’s design of operating from two split units, gives it the name ‘ductless mini-split’.

What is Central Air Conditioning?

Central air or a central air conditioner is what you likely recognize as the traditional heating and cooling system. For starters, air conditioning can be misleading as a term—many homeowners know AC to equal ‘cool air’. However, your air conditioner does more than just cool down your home—it also regulates the humidity levels throughout your home so you can be comfortable in every season. Hence, ‘conditioned’ air!

A central air conditioning system is comprised of a main external unit called a compressor that sits outside your home and uses freon in cooling coils to remove the heat from the air. The system then utilizes ducts throughout your home to send the newly warm or cool air throughout your home.

How long does a central air conditioner last?

A central air conditioning system will last 15 to 20 years depending on the same factors that affect a heat pump. Regular maintenance will ensure your system lasts as long as possible.

Heat Pumps vs Central Air Conditioning

Heat pumps and central air conditioning systems are both great options for heating and cooling your home, though they have different best practices.

Pros and Cons of Heat Pumps



  • Not a cost-effective option for whole-house heating or cooling

  • Upfront cost is more expensive than traditional systems

  • Visible interior unit

Pros and Cons of Central Air Conditioning


  • The best option for whole-home comfort

  • Typically more cost-efficient than other systems


  • Requires ductwork

  • No ability to heat or cool areas of your home individually

  • Temperature is controlled with one thermostat which can lead to hot or cold spots in the home

Which system is best for me?

Ultimately, the system you choose will come down to what you’re looking for. If you want reliable heating and cooling for your entire home and you have existing ductwork, central air conditioning is probably the best choice for you. If you’re adding on to your home or want to heat or cool one room of your home independently from the rest, a heat pump may be the best option.


Need more help or information before you decide? Ask one of the experts at Pine State Services for expert advice on which system is best for your needs. Contact our team today at (207) 747-1210 or reach out online!

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