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

Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for air conditioning. It works by moving heat instead of creating it (unlike furnaces) which is why it is used as a two way system. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just look at 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 higher the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great 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 specially for 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 about equal, if not even better depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC can’t. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are most effective in warm climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We recommend a consultation with a ACE certified HVAC tech who has experience in your area before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your climate, you could have very 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 hit the temperature setting on your thermostat. 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 necessary for certain chillier climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As peculiar as it may sound, during cold weather, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the air outside 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 at extremely low temperatures there is not enough heat available outside to heat the air inside to high enough temperatures needed to keep 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 would likely 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 some 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 wonderful alternative for certain northern climates, but more 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 review 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 additional systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you’re not sure which system would work best for you, call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home. 

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