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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 shifting heat instead of creating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it can be used as a two way appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of energy efficiency. Just look at these two high quality cooling systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency rating for air conditioners, and the bigger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great however, 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 unique to 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 almost equal, if not superior depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC cannot. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are more effective in hotter climates with mild 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 region before deciding on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your climate, you could have extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it’s difficult 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 unknowingly begin 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 robust heating system and is critical for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the temperature hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As peculiar as it may seem, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is intended to pull heat from the outdoors and use it to heat the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to function well, but at exceptionally low temperatures there is not ample heat available outside to increase the inside temperature high enough 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 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 many areas, heat pumps can work with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment as it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s natural temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for certain northern areas, but extra 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 consider 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 two systems when one would suffice. 
 
If you still aren’t convinced which system is best for your home, call Stevenson Service Experts to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home. 

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