Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner: Which One is Right for Cooling Your Home

Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by shifting heat instead of making it (the way a furnace does) which is why it can be used as a dual function unit. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of energy efficiency. Just examine these two top of the line cooling systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency scale for air conditioning systems, and the higher the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great however, and the efficiency differs 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 system is at heating. We can see from these examples when comparing efficiency ratings, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not superior depending on the system you choose. The biggest difference between the two 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 much more effective in warm 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 technician who has experience in your area before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your climate, you could have extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it’s difficult 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 end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during cold snaps which drives your energy consumption way up. 

How does a heat pump compare to a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is essential for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As weird as it may sound, during heating season, 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 an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but in exceptionally cold climates 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 ideal during the winter months for someone in Tampa, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump would probably 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 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 natural temperature to heat and cool. This is a wonderful alternative for particular northern regions, but more land must be available in order to install the proper 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 installing a system that turns off when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Stallion Heating and Air Conditioning to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to help you make the right decision for your home. 

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