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 moving heat instead of creating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it can be used as a heating and cooling appliance. It’s true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of SEER rating. Just look at these two luxury level systems from Lennox. 

Air Conditioner
Heat Pump

What is SEER and HSPF? 

SEER is an efficiency rating for ACs, and the higher the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding 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 designed to grade heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. We can see from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not a little better depending on the system you choose. The greatest difference between them is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC cannot. 

Does climate matter for heat pumps? 

Heat pumps are much more effective in hotter 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 encourage you to consult with a ACE certified HVAC technician who has experience in your area before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn’t right for your climate, you could have very 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 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 up. 

How does a heat pump stack up against a furnace? 

A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is essential for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As peculiar as it may sound, during heating season, a heat pump is intended to remove heat from the outside air and use it to warm the inside air. Although it may be too cool outside for comfort, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to work properly, but in exceptionally cold climates there is not enough heat available outside to warm the inside air to higher temperatures needed to stay warm. So while a heat pump may be ideal during the winter months 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 freezing temperatures hit and you don’t have a furnace to take over, a heat pump could run for hours trying to keep your home warm enough. 

How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump 

In certain areas, heat pumps can work 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 certain northern areas, but extra land must be available in order to install the required 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 understand 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 Stallion Heating and Air Conditioning to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you choose the right option for your home. 

  • Zoning Systems: Customized Comfort in Every Room

    Central heating and cooling systems have transformed home comfort and made it possible to stay perfectly comfortable in any season or climate. However, while centralized systems provide a handy way to control the temperature, they occasionally fall short when it comes to evenly distributing heated... Continue reading

  • Eight Ways to Upgrade Your HVAC System

    During the cold winter months in the U.S., there’s no better way to increase your home’s comfort than with easy and effective upgrades. It’s not simply about keeping the house toasty warm as the snow begins to fall—it’s about maximizing efficiency and improving the very air you breathe.... Continue reading

  • How to Find a Suitable HVAC System

    In terms of keeping your home comfortable during every season, nothing is more important than picking out the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This decision influences your daily comfort, monthly utility expenses and all-around home efficiency. Then again, with so... Continue reading