Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner: Which One is Right for Cooling Your Home

March 28, 2016

Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for AC. It works by shifting heat instead of generating it (unlike furnaces) which is why it also is used as a dual function system. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but also know that most air conditioners are about equal in terms of their efficiency. Just examine these two luxury level cooling systems from Lennox.

XC25 air conditioner from Lennox

XC25 Air Conditioner
up to 26 SEER
ENERGY STAR® Qualified

XP25 Heat pump from Lennox

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 guideline for ACs, and the larger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding however, 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 designed to grade heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. Notice from these examples when comparing efficiency ratings, air conditioners are about equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The greatest difference between them is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC can't.

Updated minimum SEER guidelines for 2018 for air conditioning units and heat pumps
Updated minimum SEER guidelines for 2018 for air conditioning units and heat pumps


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 a backup, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a NATE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your city 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 gets too low, it's much harder 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 may end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during colder months which drives your energy consumption through the roof.

How does a heat pump compare with a furnace?


A furnace is a more robust heating system and is critical for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As peculiar as it may seem, during heating season, a heat pump is purposed to remove heat from the outside air and use it to warm the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still a sufficient amount of heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but in exceptionally cold climates there is not sufficient heat available outside to warm the inside air to higher temperatures needed to stay warm. So while a heat pump may work perfectly during the cooler temperatures 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’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 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 fantastic alternative for certain northern areas, but more land must be available in order to install the necessary 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 examine the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up buying a system that doesn’t work 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 Falso Service Experts to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to help you choose the right option for your home.
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