Are RV Heat Pumps and RV Air Conditioners Similar?

Is an RV Heat Pump and an RV Air Conditioner Similar?
Is an RV Heat Pump and an RV Air Conditioner Similar?

RV Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner

RV owners have a few options when it comes to cooling and heating their recreational vehicles. The question of air conditioners vs heat pumps is a common question, especially when an air conditioner needs to be replaced. A heat pump might be OK if you’re in areas with moderate weather, but an air conditioner with a separate furnace for heating s often a better choice in areas with more extreme climates.

Let’s take a look at the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump.

How Are Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Similar?

When you need a system to cool your RV, either an air conditioner or a heat pump will work. Both air conditioners and heat pumps move heat from the inside to the outside. Many people believe that air conditioners cool by producing cold air, however, the truth is an air conditioner cools your RV by sending hot air outside. Heat pumps work the same way when in cooling mode. From a cooling perspective, air conditioners and heat pumps work in the same way, with very little difference in efficiency or energy costs.

How are Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners Different?

While nearly identical when cooling, heating is a different story. Air conditioners will not provide heat, but heat pumps will. A heat pump can both heat and cool. Most recreational vehicles come with both an air conditioner and a propane furnace for heating when it’s cold. Together, the air conditioner and furnace provide a complete cooling and heating system.

While a heat pump can heat an RV, if the outside temperature drops below freezing, the effectiveness of a heat pump is reduced, because it takes more energy to maintain a warm temperature inside the recreational vehicle. Heat pumps often have an electric heater, and since the electric heater is not very efficient, it can take a lot of electricity to run it. On the other hand, a propane furnace is very efficient.

Which One is Right for You?

Both a heat pump and an air conditioner with a propane furnace can be a good choice. However, if your RV already has a functioning air conditioner and furnace, it could be a waste of money to replace it with a heat pump. For one thing, air conditioning units typically have a longer life than a heat pump. The reason for this is that a heat pump both cools and heats the RV, so it’s used year-round. On the other hand, an air conditioner will take a break during the winter, when the furnace is used to heat the RV. Keep in mind, if you need to replace both your air conditioner and your furnace, then a heat pump could be the economical choice. Likewise, if you like a new RV that comes with a heat pump, go ahead and buy it. But overall, replacing an RV air conditioner with a heat pump may or may not be worth it.

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