Although heat is part of the name, you can use a heat pump for air conditioning. It works by transferring heat instead of creating it (furnaces burn fuel to generate heat) which is why it also is used as a dual function appliance. It's true that heat pumps can be very efficient, although most air conditioners are about equal in terms of energy efficiency. Just look at these two top of the line 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 ACs, and the larger the number, the more efficient it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding however, and the efficiency differs depending on the model. On the other hand, HSPF is a rating system that stands for "heating seasonal performance factor" and is specially for 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 even better depending on the AC you choose. The greatest difference between the two 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 hotter climates with milder winters, save for some integrated systems that use heat pumps as backups or auxiliary, such as with a geothermal system. We encourage you to consult with a NATE certified HVAC pro who has experience in your city 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 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 may end up running your heat pump non-stop or switching on emergency heat 24/7 during winter which drives your energy consumption through the roof.
How does a heat pump compare to a furnace?
A furnace is a more powerful 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 strange as it may seem, during cold weather, a heat pump is purposed to remove heat from the outdoors and use it to raise the temperature of the inside air. Just because the air outside feels cold, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to operate correctly, but at exceptionally 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 be great during the winter months 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.
How to achieve maximum efficiency with your heat pump
In some 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 certain northern regions, but additional land must be available in order to install the required 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 turns off 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 Rob's Albertan Service Experts to schedule
a complimentary in-home quote. We are available to answer any and all of your questions to make sure you make the right decision for your home.