Although heat is in the name, you can use a heat pump for cooling. It works by transferring heat instead of creating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it is used as a dual function system. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, but also know that most air conditioners are roughly equivalent in terms of energy efficiency. Just compare 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 air conditioning systems, and the larger the number, the cheaper it is to operate. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding 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 specially for heat pumps. It tells you how efficient the unit is at heating. Notice from these examples by looking at the SEER rating, air conditioners are about equal, if not a little better depending on the AC you choose. The biggest difference between heat pumps and ACs is that heat pumps can also warm up your home while an AC can't.
Does climate matter for heat pumps?
Heat pumps are most effective in warm climates with mild winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. You should speak with a NATE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your area 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 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 winter which drives your energy consumption up.
How does a heat pump stack up against a furnace?
A furnace is a stronger heating system
and is necessary for certain chillier climates. That’s because a heat pump has difficulty when the temperatures hit about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As weird as it sounds, during cooler temperatures, a heat pump is designed to pull heat from the outside air and use it to warm the inside air. Even when it feels cold outside, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to function well, but at extremely low temperatures there is not sufficient heat available outside to warm the inside air to higher temperatures needed to stay warm. So while a heat pump may work perfectly during the winter months for someone in Daytona Beach, 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.
How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump
In many areas, heat pumps can function 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 wonderful alternative for certain northern regions, but more land must be available in order to install the necessary 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 examine the pros and cons of each heating and cooling system so you don’t end up installing a system that shuts down when extreme temperatures hit, or investing in additional systems when one would suffice.
If you can’t decide which system would best fit your needs, call Service Experts Commercial HVAC to schedule
a free 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.