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 moving heat instead of generating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it can be used as a dual function appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are similar in terms of their efficiency. Just compare these two high quality units from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency guideline for air conditioners, and the larger the number, the more efficient 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 another scale that stands for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is unique to heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. Notice from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are almost equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The biggest difference between them is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC can’t. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are more effective in warm climates with milder winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We recommend a consultation with a ACE certified HVAC pro 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 extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature gets 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 unknowingly begin 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 stronger heating system and is critical for certain colder 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 seems, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is purposed to remove heat from the outdoors and use it to warm the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but in exceptionally cold climates there is not ample heat available outside to increase the inside temperature high enough to stay warm. So while a heat pump may work perfectly during the heating season for someone in Tampa, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump may 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 work 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 natural temperature to heat and cool. This is a great alternative for specific northern climates, but additional land must be available in order to install the essential piping for a geothermal system. 
 
Just what you needed – one more thing to think about when it comes to your 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 purchasing a system that turns off when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in multiple 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 free in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to help you choose the right option for your home. 

  • How to Choose a Suitable HVAC System

    When it comes to keeping your home comfortable all year, nothing is more critical than choosing the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This choice influences your daily comfort, monthly utility costs and general home efficiency. But, with so many system types, sizes and... Continue reading

  • Year-End HVAC Maintenance Checklist

    Now that the air starts to get cold, you know it’s time to winterize your residence for the cooler months ahead. Your heating system is crucial to maintaining a cozy, warm setting. A well-maintained furnace delivers the comfort you desire while using less energy. Scheduled inspections also make... Continue reading

  • HVAC Trends: What’s New in 2024

    In the continuously changing world of home HVAC, keeping up with the latest HVAC trends is imperative for homeowners seeking to enhance their home’s comfort and efficiency. Looking into 2024, the HVAC industry continues to innovate, bringing new technologies and trends that promise to transform... Continue reading