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 AC. It works by shifting heat instead of creating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it also is used as a two way appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of their efficiency. Just examine these two luxury level units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency rating for air conditioners, and the higher the number, the more efficient it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not crazy however, and the efficiency changes depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a rating system that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is unique to heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the equipment is at heating. You can tell from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are about equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The largest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC cannot. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are much more effective in warm climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a ACE certified HVAC technician who has experience in your region before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your area, you could have extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature gets too low, it’s much harder 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 may unknowingly begin running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during colder months which drives your energy consumption up. 

How does a heat pump compare with a furnace? 

A furnace is a more robust heating system and is essential for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As odd as it may sound, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is purposed to pull heat from the air outside and use it to warm the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to work properly, but at exceptionally low temperatures there is not enough heat available outside to warm the inside air to higher temperatures needed to stay warm. So while a heat pump may be great during the cooler temperatures for someone in Orlando, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump would likely also need a furnace for the more extreme temperatures. If you don’t have a furnace that kicks in when the freezing temperatures hit, the heat pump can run for hours trying to keep your home warm enough. 

How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump 

In many areas, heat pumps can work with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment since it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s natural temperature to heat and cool. This is a wonderful alternative for specific northern climates, but additional land must be available in order to install the necessary 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 investing in a system that doesn’t work when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in multiple systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you’re not sure which system would work best for you, call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you make the right choice for your home. 

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