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 air conditioning. It works by moving heat instead of making it (the way a furnace does) which is why it also is used as a two way system. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but also know that most air conditioners are similar in terms of energy efficiency. Just look at these two top of the line units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency guideline for ACs, and the higher the number, the cheaper it is to operate. 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 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. We can see from these examples by looking at the SEER rating, air conditioners are almost equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The greatest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC only cools. 

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 an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a ACE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your city before deciding on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your area, you could have very 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 might unknowingly begin 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 stack up against a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is essential for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As odd as it seems, during cold weather, a heat pump is designed to extract heat from the outside air and use it to raise the temperature of the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but at extremely low temperatures 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 Tampa, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump may 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 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 actual temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for particular northern regions, but additional land must be available in order to install the necessary 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 consider the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up buying a system that doesn’t work 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 Stevenson Service Experts to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to help you make the right decision for your home. 

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