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 air conditioning. It works by transferring heat instead of generating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it also is used as a heating and cooling system. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of their efficiency. Just compare these two high quality systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency scale for ACs, and the bigger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding however, and the efficiency differs depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a rating system that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is unique to heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the equipment is at heating. Notice from these examples by looking at the SEER rating, air conditioners are almost equal, if not even better depending on the system you choose. The largest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC only cools. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as a backup, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a ACE certified HVAC tech 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 colder months which drives your energy consumption way up. 

How does a heat pump compare to a furnace? 

A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is necessary for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the temperature hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As unusual as it sounds, during heating season, a heat pump is intended to pull heat from the outdoors and use it to heat the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still a sufficient amount of heat for the heat pump to function well, 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 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 freezing temperatures hit and you don’t have a furnace to take over, a heat pump could 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 be used 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 specific northern areas, but extra land must be available in order to install the correct 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 examine 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 can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you choose the right option for your home. 

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