Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by moving heat instead of creating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it also is used as a heating and cooling appliance. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of SEER rating. Just look at these two luxury level systems from Lennox.
XC25 Air Conditioner
up to 26 SEER
ENERGY STAR® Qualified
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 ACs, and the larger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great however, and the efficiency changes 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. You can tell from these examples that as far as energy effiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not a little better depending on the system you choose. The greatest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC only cools.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with mild winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a NATE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your city before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your climate, 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 reach the temperature set by your thermostat. This means you may start 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 stack up against a furnace?
A furnace is a more powerful heating system
and is critical for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As strange as it may seem, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is purposed to pull heat from the outdoors and use it to raise the temperature of 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 sufficient heat available outside to heat the air inside to high enough temperatures needed to keep warm. So while a heat pump may work perfectly 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 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 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 wonderful alternative for particular northern climates, but additional land must be available in order to install the proper 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 examine the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up investing in a system that shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in multiple systems when one would suffice.
If you still aren’t convinced which system is best for your home, call Strand Brothers Service Experts to schedule
a no-charge in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to help you make the right decision for your home.