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

Although heat is part of 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 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 compare these two high quality units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency scale for ACs, and the bigger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great however, and the efficiency changes depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is another scale that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is specially for heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. Notice from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are about equal, if not superior depending on the system you choose. The biggest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC cannot. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are much more effective in warmer climates with milder 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 tech who has experience in your city before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your climate, you could have unnecessarily 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 warm your home to the temperature you set. This means you may end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during colder months which drives your energy consumption through the roof. 

How does a heat pump compare to a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is critical for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As odd as it may seem, during heating season, a heat pump is purposed to remove heat from the outside air 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 function well, but in exceptionally cold climates there is not enough heat available outside to heat the air inside to high enough temperatures needed to keep warm. So while a heat pump may be ideal during the winter months for someone in Tampa, 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 be used with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment as it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s natural temperature to heat and cool. This is a wonderful alternative for certain northern areas, but additional land must be available in order to install the essential 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 examine the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up installing a system that shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two 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 free in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right choice for your home. 

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