Use a Portable Air Conditioner as a Heater? We Find Out

Investing in special appliances is always a costly endeavor. When dropping those precious dollars on something new, you always have to ask yourself, how can I get the most out of this device, or better, what else can this little beauty do? 

Air conditioners already find themselves in an excellent position, thanks to them reducing the overall temperature of your home. Still, they are drawing air into the unit and filtering it before releasing it once again. They function doubly as an air purifiers.

If it is not outright removing the heat from the air, it disperses it throughout the room in much the same way a fan does. However, one must wonder if they can use a portable air conditioner as a heater.

For your air conditioner to function as a heater, it has to come equipped with a particular part known as a heat pump. Otherwise, you can only use a standard air conditioner to cool the air around it is installed. 

We’ll dive more into what a heat pump is and how it functions below. Still, before we thoroughly go over that, we’ll briefly connect on how an air conditioner can turn into a heater.

Can a Portable Air Conditioner Be Used as a Heater?

As we said above, an air conditioner can most definitely turn into a heater! Although, if your air conditioner doesn’t have a heat pump, you won’t be able to use this function. 

Not using a heat pump would be a shame because it benefits from purchasing an expensive boiler without finances. 

How Do Air Conditioners Convert Into Heaters?

Having the heat pump is step one of the processes, though. What truly happens inside the appliance is it reverses the entire process required to make hot air cold, using an appropriately named “reversing valve.” 

Utilizing this, the coil that traditionally made the hot air cold now does the opposite. 

It takes the newly heated air and pushes it throughout the machine’s exhaust ports, thus heating the house by association. 

The entire process hinges on using the reversing valve, which causes the refrigerant to change directions, allowing all the effort and energy to make hot air cold. That energy enables the AC unit to convert it to heat and disperse it throughout the house.

Get a Portable AC Unit with a Heat Pump

Taking keen note of the title, none of this is possible without using a heat pump. Not every air conditioner has this particular part on it, so you will add it into your search filters while shopping to find it. 

Unfortunately, a heat pump will not be tossed in as a bonus, like a remote control or other perks that come within your unit. Instead, you are going to have to look for one that has it installed.

The easiest way to find one of these specialized units would be to go to any local HVAC store or search for it online at one of the many dealers such as Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, or even Amazon. 

It’s worth noting that air conditioners with heat pumps are typically more expensive than their cold-only brethren. 

Still, you will be saving just as much money in the long run, considering you aren’t buying a space heater or something along those lines to achieve the same goal.

What is a Heat Pump?

Despite how many times we’ve referenced it up until this point, most people probably haven’t heard the term before. If they have, they don’t exactly know what it does, or better, how it functions. 

Suppose we were to break it down to its most simple of terms. In that case, the internal device moves warm air from one part of the unit to another. Throughout the process, it then expels that heated air throughout the room it is currently positioned in.

The name heat pump is rather generic. However, there is a wide variety of them that you probably have made use of in your home without even realizing it. 

Some of the most notorious names on the list would be the following:

  • Refrigerators
  • Air conditioners
  • Freezers

You might be thinking that all of those appliances chill the things stored in them. Still, the heat pumps are often utilized in the back of those machines, expelling the heated air they removed from the device outside to chill the contents within.

Amazingly the duality offered from a heat pump allows for some phenomenal experiences to occur in our day-to-day life. More often than not, the ones we take as a given and don’t even give more than a passing thought to. 

Still, without a heat pump, we wouldn’t be able to store food, or in some cases, survive the changing of the seasons!

Why Should You Get a Heat Pump

1. Cost-effective in Price

Considering the many reasons listed above have not convinced you to get an air conditioner with a heat pump, consider the costs. You would have to spend even more money on a heater and portable air conditioner combined. 

Even better, you might want to consider a boiler instead of the price difference of adding a heat pump on something you are already going to purchase. 

2. Cost-effective in Electricity

General pricing differences aside, you are saving money in another way as well. The investment saved would be on the electricity you would use operating both an air conditioner and a space heater separately instead of seamlessly swapping between one and the other.

3. Saving Space in Your Home

Having two devices means that it will take up more space, especially when it comes to storing them both aside if need be. Having a cluttered area will make your mind go crazy, more often than not. The term “less is better” significantly applies in this aspect. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of a Heat Pump

Like all things in life, purchasing an air conditioner does indeed come with its very own list of pros and cons. In this case, it would seem that the pros outweigh the cons.

That is unless you happen to have poor access to windows or need your home to be at an exact temperature for you to feel comfortable. 

Let’s check the table below to get a brief list of the pros and cons and let you decide for yourself whether or not to get an air conditioner with a built-in heat pump.

ProsCons
Easily movableYou cannot control the temperature of the home
Takes up little spaceCan be loud
Can heat & cool roomsThe unit needs to be placed near a window
Energy efficient
Hassle-free installation

When Should I Replace a Heat Pump?

As with every device, a heat pump will get old within a few years of using them. However, it is not very often that you will be replacing the heat pump because you should replace it between 10 to 20 years, which is how long a portable AC heat pump will last. 

The longevity of a heat pump will depend on how frequently used it is and what location you use it in. Nevertheless, here are a few things you can do to maintain its life longer:

  • Make sure the coils are kept clean.
  • Clean the fins outside the unit. 
  • Clean and replace the air filters regularly. 
  • Check to make sure there is no build-up on the ice.

Conclusion

It’s well worth the time and money required to get yourself an air conditioner with a built-in heat pump. This device can dramatically lower your bills and give you some additional room in your house. Not to mention, it will keep things as cold or as hot as you like. Overall, it’s a win-win no matter how you look at it!

Alternatively, if the unit itself can’t fit into your living arrangement, or you can’t abide by the noise the unit could make. At the same time, it functions you can still find some different solutions. Still, they will probably be considerably more costly to achieve the same result.

Sources

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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