Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for AC. It works by moving heat instead of creating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it is used as a dual function appliance. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but also know that most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of SEER rating. Just compare these two luxury level cooling systems from Lennox.
XC25 Air Conditioner
up to 26 SEER
ENERGY STAR® Qualified
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 ACs, 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 another scale that stands for "heating seasonal performance factor" and is unique to heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the equipment is at heating. You can tell from these examples when comparing efficiency ratings, air conditioners are about equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The biggest difference between them is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC can't.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with mild winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a ACE certified
HVAC technician who has experience in your city before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your area, you could have very 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 end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during winter which drives your energy consumption way up.
How does a heat pump compare with a furnace?
A furnace is a more robust heating system
and is necessary 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 seem, during cold weather, a heat pump is intended to remove heat from the air outside and use it to raise the temperature of the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, 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 increase the inside temperature high enough to stay warm. So while a heat pump may work perfectly during the winter months for someone in Orlando, 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 certain 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 great alternative for particular northern climates, but more land must be available in order to install the necessary 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 review the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up purchasing a system that shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in additional systems when one would suffice.
If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule
a free in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to help you choose the right option for your home.