All the components that are present in the air conditioners are also present in the heat pumps. While the air conditioners operate on the regular vapor compression cycle, the heat pumps operate on a reverse vapor compression cycle also called as reverse refrigeration cycle. Let us see more differences between the air conditioner and the heat pumps:
1) Function: The main function of the air conditioners is to cool the room and maintain comfort conditions when the atmospheric temperature is high. The main function of the heat pumps is to heat the room when the atmospheric temperature is very low.
2) Evaporator: In air conditioners the evaporator is also called as the cooling coil, because it is the evaporator that produces the cooling effect. In air conditioners the evaporator is the main functioning parts since it produces the desired cooling effect. The evaporator of the air conditioners is located inside the room, which is to be cooled. In heat pumps the evaporator is located outside the room which is to be heated. The evaporator in heat pumps serves the function of absorbing the heat from the atmosphere, which is at lower temperature.
3) Condenser: In heat pumps the condenser serves the main function of heating the room and it is located inside the room that is to be heated. The room air blows over the condenser, absorbs heat and flows to the room keeping it hot. In air conditioners the condenser serves the function of releasing the heat to the atmosphere and it is located outside the room, which is to be cooled.
4) Coefficient of Performance: The coefficient of performance of the heat pump is always more than one, while that of the air conditioner can be more than one or less than one depending upon the temperature of the atmosphere and the room and the total amount of heat inside the room.
Apart from there major differences, there are lots of similarities between the air conditioners and the heat pumps. They have exactly same components; in fact, the air conditioner used in the summers can also be used as the heat pump in winter. All you have to do is operate the valve which will reverse the operations of the evaporator and the condenser. The evaporator of the air conditioner becomes condenser and the condenser becomes the evaporator, making it work like the heat pump.