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

March 28, 2016

Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by moving heat instead of generating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it also is used as a dual function unit. 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 high quality cooling systems from Lennox.

XC25 air conditioner from Lennox

XC25 Air Conditioner
up to 26 SEER
ENERGY STAR® Qualified

XP25 Heat pump from Lennox

XP25 Heat Pump
up to 23.5 SEER
up to 10.2 HSPF
ENERGY STAR® Qualified



What is SEER and HSPF?


SEER is an efficiency rating for ACs, and the bigger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding 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 system is at heating. We can see from these examples that as far as energy effiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not a little better depending on the system you choose. The greatest difference between them is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC cannot.

Updated minimum SEER guidelines for 2018 for air conditioning units and heat pumps
Updated minimum SEER guidelines for 2018 for air conditioning units and heat pumps


Does climate matter for heat pumps?


Heat pumps are more effective in warmer climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We encourage you to consult with a ACE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your area before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your area, you could have extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it's much harder for the heat pump to draw heat out of the air and it may never hit the temperature setting on your thermostat. This means you might start running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during winter which drives your energy consumption through the roof.

How does a heat pump stack up against a furnace?


A furnace is a more robust heating system and is necessary for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As weird as it sounds, during heating season, a heat pump is purposed to remove heat from the air outside and use it to warm the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still a sufficient amount of heat for the heat pump to function well, but in exceptionally cold climates there is not sufficient heat available outside to heat the air inside to high enough temperatures needed to keep warm. So while a heat pump may be great during the heating season 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’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 some areas, heat pumps can function 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 actual temperature to heat and cool. This is a wonderful alternative for particular northern regions, but extra 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 investing in a system that shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in additional systems when one would suffice.

If you’re not sure which system would work best for you, call Teays Valley Service Experts to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you choose the right option for your home.
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