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 making it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it can be used as a two way appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of SEER rating. Just examine these two high quality units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency scale for air conditioners, and the bigger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. 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 different standard that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is specially for heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the equipment is at heating. You can tell from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are almost equal, if not even better depending on the AC you choose. The greatest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC only cools. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with milder winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We encourage you to consult with a ACE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your region before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your home, you could have extremely 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 hit the temperature setting on your thermostat. This means you might start 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 stack up against a furnace? 

A furnace is a more robust heating system and is necessary for certain cooler 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 sounds, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is purposed to remove heat from the air outside and use it to heat the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to function well, but at exceptionally low temperatures there is not ample heat available outside to increase the inside temperature high enough to stay 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 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 work 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 great alternative for certain northern climates, but extra land must be available in order to install the necessary 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 consider the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up investing in a system that turns off when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in multiple systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Norrell Service Experts to schedule a free in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you choose the right option for your home. 

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