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 transferring heat instead of generating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it is used as a dual function unit. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of SEER rating. Just compare these two high quality systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency guideline for air conditioning systems, and the bigger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. 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 different standard that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is specially for heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. You can tell from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are about equal, if not superior depending on the AC you choose. The biggest difference between them is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC cannot. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are more effective in hotter climates with mild 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 area before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your area, you could have unnecessarily high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it’s near impossible 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 start 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 compare with a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is essential for certain chillier climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As strange as it seems, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the air outside and use it to raise the temperature of the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but in exceptionally cold climates 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 winter months 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 some areas, heat pumps can work 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 fantastic alternative for certain northern climates, but more land must be available in order to install the required piping for a geothermal system. 
 
When it comes to home comfort, you probably didn’t need anything else to think about; but, remember, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up buying 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 Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home. 

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