Which is the better choice for cooling–an air conditioner or a heat pump? When it comes to cooling, the air conditioner and the heat pump each do a pretty equivalent job. That’s mainly because they work pretty much the same way. They each use a refrigerant to transfer heat from within the dwelling to outside the house. The operating costs of a heat pump and an air conditioner are comparable throughout the summer, because they both operate on electrical power. So when it comes to cooling your home, you could opt for either. The real decision-making difference is when it comes to warming your home. And depending on your climate, a heat pump will either be worthwhile or it won’t.
The heat pump essentially reverses its process in the winter to take heat from the outside air and bring it inside the home. Basically, a heat pump operates the exact same way all year, but it merely transfers the heat in a different direction depending on the season. A heat pump will conserve money over a standard furnace in the wintertime. In fact, some studies show it can save you 30-40%. That’s quite significant. So you’re probably thinking this is a no-brainer, slam dunk decision…get the heat pump. But you’d be mistaken. The heat pump works great and will save you on energy bills as long as the temperature doesn’t get under about 40 degrees. Anything colder and the heat pump has trouble keeping your home comfortable. Now, you can always complement your heat pump with your furnace when the temperature does fall, but if you don’t have a furnace to back it up, you could be chilly.
So in essence, if you live in a part of the country where the winters are fairly mild, a heat pump makes a lot of sense. But if you encounter cold winters, it just won’t be enough to keep you comfortable. That’s really the deciding issue. There are a couple of other factors to consider when determining whether to invest in a heat pump. For instance, initial cost vs. savings. A heat pump will cost more to purchase than either a furnace or air conditioner individually, but it will do the job of both. If you live in a milder climate, you might be able to replace both with one heat pump. However, if it gets rather cold where you live, you might want to have a furnace for backup. If that’s the situation, you’re really only replacing your air conditioner with the more expensive heat pump. Although you might experience savings during milder winter weather when in contrast to the cost to run your gas furnace, so you can factor in those savings. One final thought is that a heat pump performs continuously, year round so its life expectancy is generally half of that of an air conditioning unit or furnace. If you dwell in an area that’s borderline, inquire around to determine if your neighbors own a heat pump and gauge your decision on their degree of satisfaction.