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 air conditioning. It works by transferring heat instead of making it (unlike furnaces) which is why it can be used as a heating and cooling unit. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just examine these two top of the line units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency scale for air conditioning systems, and the bigger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not crazy though, and the efficiency differs depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a different standard that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is unique to heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the system is at heating. You can tell from these examples when comparing efficiency ratings, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not even better depending on the AC you choose. The largest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC can’t. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are more effective in hotter climates with milder winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as a backup, such as with a geothermal system. We recommend a consultation with a ACE certified HVAC technician who has experience in your region before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your home, you could have extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it’s near impossible 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 end up 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 to a furnace? 

A furnace is a stronger heating system and is necessary for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperature hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As weird as it may sound, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the air outside and use it to heat the inside air. Although it may be too cool outside for comfort, there is still a sufficient amount of heat for the heat pump to function well, but at exceptionally 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 ideal during the heating season for someone in Orlando, 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 many areas, heat pumps can function with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment since it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s natural temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for particular northern climates, but extra land must be available in order to install the correct 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 review the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up purchasing 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 happy to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you make the right decision for your home. 

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