Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner: Which One is Right for Cooling Your Home
Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by shifting heat instead of making 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 similar in terms of SEER rating. Just look at these two high quality systems from Lennox.
What is SEER and HSPF?
SEER is an efficiency rating for air conditioners, and the higher the number, the more efficient it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not crazy though, and the efficiency changes depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a rating system that stands for "heating seasonal performance factor" and is specially for heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. You can tell from these examples when comparing efficiency ratings, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not even better depending on the model you choose. The greatest 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 much more effective in warm climates with mild 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 area before deciding on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your home, you could have extremely 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 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 compare to a furnace?
A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is critical for certain colder 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 purposed to pull heat from the outside air 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 exceptionally 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 work perfectly during the winter months for someone in Tampa, 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 some areas, heat pumps can be used 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 actual temperature to heat and cool. This is a great alternative for specific northern regions, but additional 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 investing in 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 Matz-Rightway to schedule a no-charge 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.