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 cooling. It works by moving heat instead of generating it (the way a furnace does) which is why it can be used as a dual function system. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just look at these two high quality units 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 rating for air conditioning systems, and the higher the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not crazy though, and the efficiency changes depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is another scale that stands for "heating seasonal performance factor" and is designed to grade 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 mostly equal, if not superior depending on the system you choose. The biggest difference between them is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC only cools.

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 much more effective in warm climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as a backup, such as with a geothermal system. We recommend a consultation with a NATE certified HVAC pro 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 unnecessarily high electric bills. Once the temperature drops 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 cold snaps which drives your energy consumption through the roof.

How does a heat pump stack up against a furnace?


A furnace is a more powerful heating system and is necessary for certain chillier climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. As peculiar as it seems, during cold weather, a heat pump is intended to extract heat from the air outside 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 at extremely low temperatures there is not sufficient heat available outside to heat the air inside to high enough temperatures needed to keep warm. So while a heat pump may be ideal during the winter months 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’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 be used 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 specific northern climates, 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 investing in a system that doesn’t work when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in multiple systems when one would suffice.

If you still aren’t convinced which system is best for your home, call Peitz Service Experts to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right choice for your home.
Contact Us