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 cooling. It works by transferring heat instead of generating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it can be used as a heating and cooling system. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of energy efficiency. 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 larger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding 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. Notice from these examples when comparing efficiency ratings, air conditioners are almost equal, if not superior depending on the system you choose. The biggest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC can’t. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are more effective in warmer climates with mild winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as a backup, such as with a geothermal system. We encourage you to consult with a ACE certified HVAC technician who has experience in your area before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your home, you could have unnecessarily high electric bills. Once the temperature gets 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 winter which drives your energy consumption up. 

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 issues when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As peculiar as it may sound, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to extract heat from the air outside and use it to warm the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still a sufficient amount of 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 ideal during the heating season for someone in Daytona Beach, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump may 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 certain areas, heat pumps can be used 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 great alternative for certain northern climates, but extra land must be available in order to install the essential 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 turns off 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 Stallion Heating and Air Conditioning to schedule a free 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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