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

March 28, 2016

Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by moving heat instead of generating it (unlike furnaces) which is why it is used as a dual function appliance. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of their efficiency. Just compare these two top of the line cooling systems from Lennox.

XC25 air conditioner from Lennox

XC25 Air Conditioner
up to 26 SEER
ENERGY STAR® Qualified

XP25 Heat pump from Lennox

XP25 Heat Pump
up to 23.5 SEER
up to 10.2 HSPF
ENERGY STAR® Qualified



What is SEER and HSPF?


SEER is an efficiency guideline for air conditioners, and the bigger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great however, 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. We can see from these examples that as far as energy effiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not superior depending on the model you choose. The greatest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC can't.

Updated minimum SEER guidelines for 2018 for air conditioning units and heat pumps
Updated minimum SEER guidelines for 2018 for air conditioning units and heat pumps


Does climate matter for heat pumps?


Heat pumps are 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 NATE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your region before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your area, you could have unnecessarily high electric bills. Once the temperature drops 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 cold snaps which drives your energy consumption up.

How does a heat pump compare with a furnace?


A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is critical for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperature 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 outside air and use it to warm the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to work properly, but at extremely low temperatures there is not ample heat available outside to warm the inside air to higher temperatures needed to stay warm. So while a heat pump may be great 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’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 native temperature to heat and cool. This is a wonderful alternative for specific northern areas, but additional land must be available in order to install the required piping for a geothermal system.

Just what you needed – one more thing to think about when it comes to your 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 buying a system that turns off when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two systems when one would suffice.

If you’re not sure which system would work best for you, call Peachtree Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule a free in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you choose the right option for your home.
Contact Us