Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by transferring heat instead of creating it (unlike furnaces) which is why it can be used as a dual function system. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but most air conditioners are similar in terms of their efficiency. Just look at 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 rating for ACs, and the bigger the number, the more efficient it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great 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 unique to 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 mostly equal, if not a little better depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between them is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC only cools.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with milder winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We recommend a consultation with a NATE certified HVAC tech 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 drops too low, it's much harder for the heat pump to draw heat out of the air and it may never reach the temperature set by 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 way up.
How does a heat pump compare with a furnace?
A furnace is a more powerful heating system
and is necessary for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As strange as it seems, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the outdoors and use it to warm the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still an adequate amount of heat for the heat pump to work properly, but at extremely low temperatures 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 great during the winter months for someone in Tampa, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump would likely also need a furnace for the more extreme temperatures. If you don’t have a furnace that kicks in when the freezing temperatures hit, the heat pump can 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 be used 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 actual temperature to heat and cool. This is a great alternative for specific northern regions, but additional land must be available in order to install the required 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 review the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up investing in a system that turns off when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in additional systems when one would suffice.
If you’re not sure which system would work best for you, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule
a no-charge in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to help you make the right choice for your home.