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 shifting heat instead of creating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it can be used as a two way system. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just look at these two luxury level 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 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 equipment is at heating. We can see from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not superior depending on the AC you choose. The biggest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also add warmth to 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. We encourage you to consult 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 very high electric bills. Once the temperature drops 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 could end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during cold snaps which drives your energy consumption through the roof. 

How does a heat pump stack up against a furnace? 

A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is essential for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As weird as it may sound, during cold weather, a heat pump is intended to remove heat from the air outside and use it to raise the temperature of 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 ample 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 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 freezing temperatures hit and you don’t have a furnace to take over, a heat pump could run for hours trying to keep your home warm enough. 

How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump 

In certain 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 wonderful alternative for certain northern regions, but extra land must be available in order to install the needed 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 understand the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up installing a system that doesn’t work when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in additional systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Stevenson Service Experts to schedule a free in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you make the right choice for your home. 

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