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 transferring heat instead of creating it (unlike furnaces) which is why it is 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 energy efficiency. Just look at these two luxury level 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 scale for air conditioners, and the higher 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 a little better depending on the AC you choose. The biggest 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 most effective in warm 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 climate, you could have unnecessarily high electric bills. Once the temperature drops 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 unknowingly begin 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 with a furnace?


A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is critical for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperature hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As odd as it may seem, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the outdoors and use it to heat 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 in exceptionally cold climates 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 work perfectly 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 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 more land must be available in order to install the essential 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 shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two systems when one would suffice.

If you still aren’t convinced which system is best for your home, call Peachtree Service Experts to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you choose the right option for your home.
Contact Us