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 can be used as a dual function appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but also know that most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just compare these two top of the line cooling systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency guideline for air conditioning systems, and the higher the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great though, 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 specially for heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the system is at heating. We can see from these examples by looking at the SEER rating, air conditioners are about equal, if not even better depending on the system you choose. The largest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC can’t. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are most effective in warm climates with mild winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as a backup, such as with a geothermal system. We recommend a consultation with a ACE certified HVAC tech who has experience in your region before deciding on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your home, you could have unnecessarily high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it’s much harder 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 winter which drives your energy consumption through the roof. 

How does a heat pump compare with a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is necessary for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As odd as it seems, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to remove heat from the outdoors and use it to heat the inside air. Although it may be too cool outside for comfort, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, 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 winter months for someone in Orlando, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump may 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 many 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 actual temperature to heat and cool. This is a great alternative for certain northern climates, but additional land must be available in order to install the required piping for a geothermal system. 
 
We know, we know – you didn’t need another thing to think about when it comes to 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 still aren’t convinced which system is best for your home, call Stevenson Service Experts to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you choose the right option for your home. 

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