Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner: Which One is Right for Cooling Your Home

Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by moving heat instead of making it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it is used as a dual function appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just examine these two luxury level units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency guideline for air conditioners, and the larger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding though, and the efficiency differs depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is another scale that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is designed to grade heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the system is at heating. Notice from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not superior depending on the AC you choose. The largest difference between them is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC can’t. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are much more effective in hotter climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a ACE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your region before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your home, you could have extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature drops too low, it’s difficult for the heat pump to draw heat out of the air and it may never reach the temperature set by your thermostat. This means you might unknowingly begin running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during cold snaps which drives your energy consumption up. 

How does a heat pump stack up against a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is essential for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As strange as it may sound, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the air outside and use it to heat the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but at exceptionally low temperatures there is not ample heat available outside to increase the inside temperature high enough to stay warm. So while a heat pump may work perfectly during the heating season for someone in Orlando, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump may also need a furnace for the more extreme temperatures. If you’re living in those colder climates without a furnace to kick in during freezing temperatures, a heat pump may run for hours trying to make your home warm enough for comfort. 

How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump 

In certain areas, heat pumps can be used with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment because it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s native temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for specific northern climates, but additional land must be available in order to install the correct piping for a geothermal system. 
 
Just what you needed – one more thing to think about when it comes to your home comfort; but, remember, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up installing a system that doesn’t work when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in additional systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you still aren’t convinced which system is best for your home, call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to help you make the right choice for your home. 

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