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 air conditioning. It works by transferring heat instead of generating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it can be used as a dual function system. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of their efficiency. Just look at these two top of the line systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency guideline for air conditioners, and the higher the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding however, and the efficiency varies 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 unit is at heating. We can see from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are about equal, if not a little better depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC cannot. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with mild 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 licensed HVAC technician who has experience in your region 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 gets 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 could end up 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 stack up against a furnace? 

A furnace is a more robust heating system and is necessary for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As odd as it may sound, during cold weather, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the outside air and use it to heat the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to function well, but at extremely 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 heating season for someone in Orlando, someone living in upprovince 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 some areas, heat pumps can be used 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 great alternative for certain northern climates, but more 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 shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two 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 complimentary in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home. 

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