The Efficiency of Using Air Conditioners For Heating

When purchasing an air conditioner, some users expect to use it for additional heating or even use it to organize a full-fledged heating system at home. If you are considering options for furnace installation in Sacramento, then this article is for you. You will learn whether it is possible to effectively use an air conditioner to heat a house or apartment, which models are suitable for this, as well as what advantages and disadvantages heating with an air conditioner has.

How Does An Air Conditioner Work For Heating?

To understand how an air conditioner operates when heating, first let’s look at the air cooling mechanism. So, in cooling mode, the air conditioner takes air from the room, absorbs excess heat from it, sends it outside, and supplies the cooled air back into the room. The refrigerant is responsible for the process of heat absorption in a split system, which changes its state of aggregation during the operation of the device.

When heating, the direction of freon movement reverses, and reverse processes occur in the air conditioner. Thus, a split system pumps heat from the street into the room, and also extracts cold from the room air and discharges it outside. Despite the low temperature of the street air, it still contains a certain amount of thermal energy. It is used for heating.

Air Conditioner Operating Temperature In Heating Mode

When choosing a split system that you will use for heating, you need to check its minimum operating temperature in heating mode. According to this characteristic, air conditioners can be divided into five groups:

  • split systems that operate correctly in heating mode at temperatures not lower than −7 °C are non-inverter models;
  • split systems with a limit of −15 °C are the most numerous group of inverter models;
  • models that can be used at temperatures down to −22 °C or lower are inverter models with a “winter kit” installed at the factory;
  • “winter” inverter air conditioners that can be used at temperatures from −25 °C; these split systems are equipped not only with a factory “winter kit”, but also with a more powerful compressor;
  • air-to-air heat pumps – they can be used at temperatures from −25 or even −30 °C; such air conditioners are equipped with a “winter kit”, an even more powerful two-stage rotary compressor, and an enlarged heat exchanger of the external unit.

You cannot use air conditioners at temperatures lower than those allowed by the manufacturer, as this will lead to their breakdown.

Air Conditioner Heating Efficiency

It is more profitable to heat a room with an air conditioner than with an electric heater. The fact is that heaters convert electricity into thermal energy and, when consuming 1 kW of electricity, produce no more than 1 kW of heat. The principle of operation of air conditioners is different: they only transfer heat from the street to the room, which requires 3-5 times less electricity – depending on the coefficient of performance in heating mode (COP) of a particular model.

For most inverter models, the COP indicator is about 4. Thus, when consuming 1 kW of electricity, the split system produces 4 kW for heating. In heating mode, these models consume about 0.7 kW, so they supply 2.8 kW for heating. This is their heating power or heating capacity. Thus, heating a room with such an air conditioner is more profitable than using a heater with a power of 2.8 kW. The split system will supply the same amount of heat but will consume 4 times less electricity (only 0.7 kW instead of 2.8 kW).

Non-inverter air conditioners with an operating temperature of at least −7 °C at above-zero temperatures produce almost all the power declared by the manufacturer for heating, but at sub-zero temperatures, their heating is ineffective, since the heating performance drops by more than 50%.

For example, an air conditioner with a heating capacity of 2.2 kW at a temperature of +7 °C will give up all the declared 2.2 kW for heating, and during heating at sub-zero temperatures – less than 1.1 kW

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Heating With Air Conditioning

Heating an apartment with air conditioning is possible, but certain features should be taken into account. Let’s look at the benefits of heating with air conditioning.

  1. Compared to electric boilers and electric heaters, air conditioners consume 3–5 times less electricity to generate 1 kW of thermal energy.
  2. Due to the operation of the fan, the heat from the air conditioner spreads faster than with water heating, heating with convectors, or oil heaters, since with these options the air moves around the room due to natural convection.
  3. The air conditioner can be used almost all year round: for heating in the off-season and in winter, and in the summer for cooling.
  4. Air conditioners are easy to control (the remote control allows you to adjust the room temperature, and activate modes and functions). Some models can be controlled remotely from a smartphone.
  5. Installing equipment for organizing a heating system with air conditioners will cost less than installing a furnace in Sacramento.
  6. Compared to heating with wood or coal, heating with air conditioning is safer, as it does not create risks of fire, burns, or carbon monoxide poisoning, and also does not harm the environment due to the use of modern types of freon.
  7. When leaving home, you don’t have to worry about the building freezing without heating: many air conditioners provide a regular heating mode, in which the device maintains the room temperature at 8–10 °C.

Disadvantages of heating with air conditioning:

  1. Thermal output drops when the outside temperature drops. For an air conditioner to effectively heat a room in frosty conditions, it is important to choose a device that loses the least performance at sub-zero temperatures and also provides a power reserve.
  2. Dependence of work on electricity. If the power goes out, the air conditioner will stop working, so you should provide an emergency heat source, such as a fireplace.
  3. Due to constant forced air circulation, air conditioners move dust, which can be critical for people with allergies.

Wrapping It Out

When deciding on heating with air conditioning, it is important to take into account the climate of the region, the heating capacity of the devices, as well as their cost. In some cases, heating with air conditioning is the best option, but in others, it will be more efficient and cheaper to choose another heating system. We recommend contacting Alpha Mechanical if you are interested in furnace installation in Sacramento in 2023.