Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for air conditioning. It works by transferring heat instead of creating 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, but most air conditioners are about equal in terms of energy efficiency. Just look at these two high quality systems from Lennox.
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 however, 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. We can see from these examples that as far as energy efficiency goes, air conditioners are mostly equal, if not a little better depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also heat your home while an AC only cools.
Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with mild 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 ACE certified HVAC technician 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 extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature gets 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 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.
A furnace is a more robust heating system and is essential for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has trouble when the weather hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius. As odd as it may sound, during heating season, a heat pump is designed to extract heat from the outside air 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 at extremely low temperatures there is not enough heat available outside to heat the air inside to high enough temperatures needed to keep warm. So while a heat pump may be great during the cooler temperatures for someone in Orlando, someone living in upstate New York with a heat pump would probably 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.
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 native 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.
Just what you needed – one more thing to think about when it comes to your 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 investing in a system that shuts down 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 A-Plus to schedule a no-charge in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home.
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