Although heat is included in the name, you can use a heat pump for air conditioning. It works by transferring heat instead of generating 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 their efficiency. Just look at these two high quality systems from Lennox.
SEER is an efficiency guideline for ACs, and the bigger the number, the better it is. The difference between 23.5 and 26 is not astounding however, and the efficiency changes 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 about equal, if not a little better depending on the model you choose. The biggest difference between the two is that heat pumps can also add warmth to your home while an AC cannot.
Heat pumps are most effective in warmer climates with milder 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 ACE 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 extremely high electric bills. Once the temperature gets too low, it’s near impossible 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 up.
A furnace is a stronger heating system and is essential for certain colder climates. That’s because a heat pump has issues when the temperature hits about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As weird as it may sound, during cold weather, a heat pump is intended to pull heat from the outside air and use it to heat the inside air. Although it may be too cool outside for comfort, there is still plenty of available heat for the heat pump to function well, but in exceptionally cold climates 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 heating season for someone in Tampa, 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.
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 actual temperature to heat and cool. This is a great alternative for specific northern areas, 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 additional systems when one would suffice.
If you’re not sure which system would work best for you, call Fras-Air/General Service Experts to schedule a complimentary in-home quote. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions to ensure you make the right decision for your home.
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