Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by shifting 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 about equal in terms of energy efficiency. Just examine these two high quality units 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 air conditioners, and the bigger the number, the more efficient it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not great however, and the efficiency varies depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a rating system that stands for "heating seasonal performance factor" and is designed to grade heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the equipment is at heating. You can tell from these examples that as far as energy effiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not superior depending on the system you choose. The largest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC cannot.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are much more effective in warmer climates with mild winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We encourage you to consult with a NATE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your region 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 sinks too low, it's difficult 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 could unknowingly begin running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during colder months which drives your energy consumption through the roof.
How does a heat pump compare with a furnace?
A furnace is a more robust heating system
and is critical for certain chillier climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As peculiar as it seems, during cold weather, a heat pump is purposed 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 plenty of available heat for the heat pump to function well, but in exceptionally cold climates there is not ample 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 cooler temperatures for someone in Daytona Beach, 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 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 particular northern regions, but extra land must be available in order to install the needed 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 consider the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up purchasing 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 R & M Climate Control Service Experts to schedule
a complimentary in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to help you choose the right option for your home.