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

March 28, 2016

Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for AC. It works by transferring heat instead of making it (unlike furnaces) which is why it is used as a heating and cooling appliance. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just examine these two top of the line 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 scale for air conditioning systems, and the larger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not crazy though, and the efficiency differs 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 by looking at the SEER rating, air conditioners are about equal, if not a little better depending on the model you choose. The largest difference between them is that heat pumps can also add warmth to 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 most 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 encourage you to consult with a NATE certified HVAC pro 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 warm your home to the temperature you set. This means you might end up 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 essential 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 strange as it may seem, during heating season, a heat pump is intended to pull heat from the air outside 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 in exceptionally cold climates 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 be great 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’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 certain areas, heat pumps can function 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 native temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for specific northern regions, but extra land must be available in order to install the correct 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 consider the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up investing in a system that doesn’t work when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two systems when one would suffice.

If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Eveready Service Experts to schedule a free in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you make the right choice for your home.
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