Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by moving heat instead of creating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) 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 about equal in terms of their efficiency. Just compare these two top of the line 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 guideline for ACs, and the larger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding though, and the efficiency varies depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a different standard 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 almost equal, if not superior depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC only cools.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are more effective in warmer climates with less severe winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as a backup, such as with a geothermal system. We encourage you to consult with a NATE certified HVAC tech who has experience in your area before getting your heart set on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your area, you could have extremely 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 warm your home to the temperature you set. This means you could start 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 powerful heating system
and is critical for certain cooler climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As unusual as it seems, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is designed to extract 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 operate correctly, but at exceptionally 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 work perfectly 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 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 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 native temperature to heat and cool. This is a fantastic alternative for particular northern regions, but more land must be available in order to install the essential 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 understand the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up buying a system that shuts down 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 All American Air Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule
a no-charge in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you make the right decision for your home.