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 cooling. It works by shifting heat instead of creating it (unlike furnaces) which is why it can be used as a two way unit. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of SEER rating. Just look at these two top of the line cooling systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency rating for air conditioning systems, 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 unit is at heating. Notice from these examples by looking at the SEER rating, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not superior depending on the system you choose. The greatest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC only cools. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are much more effective in warmer climates with mild 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 city before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your home, you could have very 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 warm your home to the temperature you set. This means you could end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during winter which drives your energy consumption way up. 

How does a heat pump compare with a furnace? 

A furnace is a more robust heating system and is critical for certain chillier climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As weird as it seems, during heating season, a heat pump is intended to remove heat from the outside air and use it to raise the temperature of the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to function well, but at extremely low temperatures there is not enough 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’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 certain areas, heat pumps can function with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment because it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s native temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for particular northern areas, but more land must be available in order to install the proper 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 understand 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 available to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right choice for your home. 

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