Although heat is part of the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by transferring heat instead of making it (the way a furnace does) which is why it can be used as a dual function unit. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are similar in terms of SEER rating. Just compare these two high quality 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 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 a rating system that stands for "heating seasonal performance factor" and is designed to grade heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. We can see from these examples that as far as energy effiency goes, air conditioners are almost equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The largest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC cannot.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are more effective in warm climates with milder winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as an auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a NATE certified HVAC technician who has experience in your city before settling on a heat pump. If the equipment just isn't right for your climate, you could have very high electric bills. Once the temperature sinks too low, it's near impossible 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 might unknowingly begin running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during winter which drives your energy consumption up.
How does a heat pump compare to a furnace?
A furnace is a more robust heating system
and is essential for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperature hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As odd as it seems, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is designed to remove heat from the air outside and use it to heat the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to work properly, but at exceptionally low temperatures there is not sufficient heat available outside to increase the inside temperature high enough to stay warm. So while a heat pump may be great during the heating season for someone in Tampa, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump would probably also need a furnace for the more extreme temperatures. If freezing temperatures hit and you don’t have a furnace to take over, a heat pump could run for hours trying to keep your home warm enough.
How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump
In many areas, heat pumps can work with geothermal systems, and the heating source is better for the environment as it is not burning fossil fuels and, instead, uses the Earth’s native temperature to heat and cool. This is a wonderful alternative for particular northern regions, but additional land must be available in order to install the proper 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 examine the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up investing in a system that shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in two systems when one would suffice.
If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Atmostemp Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule
a complimentary in-home quote. We are here to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home.